After Orange Community Education and Recreation faced a deficit of $750,000 per quarter in October of 2020, the department ended fiscal year 2021 with a deficit of $64,545. Orange City School District Treasurer Todd Puster said that the work of Recreation Director Jill Korsok and her team significantly reduced the deficit through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fiscal year 2021, Orange recreation’s revenue was a little more than $2.63 million and expenditures were $2.69 million. Mr. Puster said. The fiscal year started on Aug. 1, 2020 and ended on July 30 of this year.

“[Ms. Korsok] and her team at Orange Community Education and Recreation were very aggressive and creative in tailoring programs to meet community needs during the pandemic. They took a number of offerings online,” Mr. Puster said on Friday. “Also, as vaccinations became more widespread, they were able to put together some additional in person programming that was well received. They really narrowed the financial impact that COVID had been having on [Orange recreation].”

The recreation levy, which was renewed in 2019, brought a little less than $1 million in revenue to the recreation department last year. Orange recreation also received donations in excess of $8,700, Ms. Korsok said. She said that her team “pinched pennies all year long” to minimize the deficit.

“We cut everywhere we could to try to create a fiscally responsible and conservative expenditure budget, and I do feel we got there,” Ms. Korsok told the Board of Education at their Aug. 23 meeting.

The department’s total expenditures were $1 million lower this fiscal year compared to the 2019-2020 year and $1.1 million lower than the 2018-2019 year. Expenditures on supplies, materials and equipment, such as desks and laminators, were $619,000 lower, Ms. Korsok said. Through retirements and attrition, the department kept salary expenditures $428,000 lower than the previous fiscal year.

“I’m very happy that it was a very small little deficit. Our staff worked very hard to get there,” she said. “We thank the community for sticking with us and for participating when it was safe to do so. We couldn’t have done this alone and we did a lot of cost savings.”

Ms. Korsok said that the recreation department created a COVID-19 response plan, which led to major program adaptations. The staff also undertook conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion and introduced program topics to address those needs. They also joined the school district in conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion.

There were 1,939 classes offered with smaller class sizes. The department served 12,316 participants, which included 3,189 unique users. About 154 children joined the recreation department for before care and aftercare and 122 kids were in preschool, some virtual and some in person. Ms. Korsok said those are “really good numbers.”

Over the past year, the department expanded virtual programming, career training and adaptive recreation for adults. They had virtual art education classes, small in-person classes and expanded summer camps. There were drive-thru lunches for senior citizens, which were “very well received,” according to Ms. Korsok. There were also book and puzzle exchanges and weekly outreach to make sure the seniors were doing well in their homes.

Orange recreation also offered fall baseball for the first time last year, expanded their soccer program and ran an in-house basketball league. The theater division created their first filmed theater production and brought Broadway actors to the district virtually. The popular Trunk-or-Treat event was converted into a drive-thru event last fall, Ms. Korsok said.

“We’ll be looking forward to this new, next normal,” she said. Fall registration for Orange recreation began on Aug. 16.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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