Board of Directors approve five ways to save or generate revenue to close gap

TEMPLETON — There was some community concern that the Templeton Community Services District Recreation Department was going to be gutted or shelved due to a $250,000 budget shortfall resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

After 2 hours and 15 minutes of discussion on just this agenda item and public input during Tuesday’s regular Zoom meeting, TCSD’s five directors, with guidance from TCSD General Manager Jeff Briltz and Recreation Dept. Supervisor Melissa Johnson unanimously closed the gap without anyone losing their job.

TCSD Board of Directors President Geoff English stated from the outset and reiterated it throughout the meeting that eliminating the Recreation Department was not being considered.

“We are not talking tonight about eliminating the Recreation Department in any way,” English said.

After receiving guidelines from the state on youth sports and activities, Briltz and Johnson said the department could now offer a variety of no-contact, four-week sports camps and clinics that fit within the COVID-19 guidelines. Johnson said she’d already received enough interest in the community to make these feasible.

COVID-19 stay-home orders and subsequent guidelines from Gov. Gavin Newsom severely impacted Templeton Recreation Dept.’s ability to put on its usual spring and summer revenue-generation events, such as youth sports leagues. Without these happening, TCSD was forecasting a deficit of $250,000 at the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year for the Recreation Dept.

Templeton is not alone in this. Municipalities across the state are facing budget shortfalls due to a drop in revenue in the wake of trying to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Briltz outlined 10 areas that could help close the deficit. Directors settled on a combination of five — eliminate the Recreation Department’s $78,000 asset replacement contribution; $25,000 reduction to the Dept. Other Post Employment Benefits; transfer $46,000 from solid waste fund to parks and recreation fund; have Recreation Department staff perform solid waste conservation intern functions and charge solid waste $11,000; and implement new sports camps and clinics that can be operated during COVID-19 to generate $90,000.

During public comment, more than 10 people, some who were not residents of Templeton, spoke in support of Templeton’s Recreation Department and its staff.

Tina Kratz, who has two daughters that played sports in Templeton leagues in past years, said, “I think the kids are being overlooked” and added they want to be out doing something with other kids. Many of the parents who spoke said they would do just about anything to get their kids into sports again.

TCSD’s Recreation Dept. has a history of needing help with its budget from time to time, but recently Briltz said it was holding its own. Still, people commented that long-term planning was needed.

Director Pam Jardini attempted to get a workshop formed to address long-term planning for the Recreation Department, following the vote to close the budget gap. Her motion died after it did not receive a second.

Fellow Board of Directors pointed out to Jardini and the public that during a strategic planning meeting, the Board had identified the Recreation Department as one of its top priorities for the coming year.

The 4-hour plus meeting also included a heartfelt thank you to outgoing Templeton Fire Chief Bill White, a COVID-19 update from Briltz, a rundown of San Luis Obispo County’s draft Housing Element update and a public hearing for lighting upgrades to District facilities. Three Board of Directors seats are being contested on Nov. 3 and it showed during some of the discussions that devolved into at times testy back-and-forth sessions.

During the hour-long discussion of the County’s draft Housing Element Update, presenter Cory Hanh explained this was a process the County does every eight years and is part of the General Plan. It identifies housing needs for the County, where these needs can be met and helps guide planning, development and funding related to housing through December of 2028.

Based on direct input from Templeton Community Services District staff, Hanh said the County had identified 1,334 units — 1,039 units of moderate-income housing and 295 units of above-moderate-income housing — on various parcels within Templeton’s boundaries that help meet the County’s needs.

Hanh noted that moving forward on these units was hindered due to water and wastewater constraints. Templeton CSD is not allowing any new water connections due to a 2016 policy requiring the district to have a 20 percent water supply buffer; their current buffer was 18 percent. TCSD’s Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant needs some improvements to bring all of the identified units online.

It was pointed out by TCSD directors that over 600 water units had been purchased but were not being used for various reasons such as high County fees. Hanh said the County would take this into consideration but it was still not enough to cover all of the units. No action was needed from Directors on this item as the County was simply seeking input.

The Templeton Community Services District (TCSD) Board of Directors holds its regular meetings on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. Meetings are held on Zoom due to COVID-19 guidelines.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles