ORDA approves $60.3 million budget

Progress was being made on upgrades to the Olympic Speedskating Oval in Lake Placid, seen Wednesday, June 9. The state Olympic Regional Development Authority contracted with a construction company to replace the old refrigeration system beneath the Oval as part of a major renovation of the Olympic Center complex ahead of the 2023 Winter World University Games. New York state has given ORDA hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade Olympic venues for the University Games. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors has approved a $60.3 million budget for the next fiscal year.

ORDA is budgeting to spend slightly more next year than in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which has an approved budget of $59.8 million.

The main reason for the budget increase is added costs for “professional services contracts,” from $250,000 this year to $1,850,000 in 2022-2023. ORDA spokesperson Elise Ruocco said in an email on Tuesday the authority has changed the way it accounts for “e-commerce activities.”

“This allows us to better reflect our recent shift to selling our tickets and passes in advance online,” she said. “In addition, the associated licenses and commission fees now fall under professional services. These charges are proportional to the online revenue generated, which has been growing.”

ORDA’s new budget accounts for more than $28.1 million in employee salaries and wages, $15.2 million in employee benefits and $1.9 million in supplies and materials, all of which cost roughly the same in this year’s budget. The authority plans to spend $12.7 million on “other operating expenditures” next year — things like utilities, fuel, travel and marketing, according to ORDA budget documents — which is down from $13.6 million this year.

The authority plans to spend $251,490 on bond payments in 2022-2023, a slight decrease from this year. Interest costs are also expected to drop, from $375,000 this year to $120,000 next year.

While the authority accounted for a $2.9 million deficit in the budget for 2021-2022, the 2022-2023 budget shows $109,212 in excess of revenues. ORDA CEO Michael Pratt said at the Dec. 17 board meeting that the authority has reduced its debt this fiscal year by more than $3.8 million.

ORDA has had some difficulties balancing its operating budget in the past. When ORDA was audited in 2014, the state Comptroller’s Office gave the authority a slap on the wrist for relying on loans and outside contributions from other state agencies to cover cash shortages. Between April 2010 and March 2013, ORDA’s losses totaled $4.2 million in cash; $45 million including depreciation, accounts receivable and post-employment benefits due to its employees.

ORDA also relied on a line of credit to cover its basic operating costs, including payroll, the audit found.

The authority anticipates $60.2 million in revenue for 2022-2023, including state and local subsidies. North Elba’s park district gives $750,000 to ORDA annually, according to North Elba Budget Officer and Human Resource Coordinator Catherine Edman.

ORDA brought in about $52 million in revenue this past fiscal year — $37.7 million of which came from items like ski pass sales, tickets, ski and snowboard lessons, equipment rentals, events, concessions and sponsorships, according to an ORDA financial report.

As of last week, Pratt said ORDA had sold 23,200 ski passes for this season — more than $10.7 million in revenue. He said that there’s a 62% renewal rate on ski passes.

Capital budget

The ORDA board also projected a capital budget of $104 million for the next fiscal year. Ruocco said the authority expects to finalize its capital budget when the state budget is approved in the spring; the state’s fiscal year begins April 1.

ORDA’s operating budget is separate from its capital budget. The hundreds of millions of dollars the state has invested into upgrades to ORDA’s winter sports venues over the past few years are part of ORDA’s capital budget, not the operational budget.

For the next fiscal year, Ruocco said capital budget funds are expected to go toward health and safety measures, modernizing antiquated infrastructure, lift and snowmaking systems, technology, security, and making investments in sustainability and year-round economic resilience.

Financial plan

The new budget also includes a multi-year “financial plan” that projects ORDA’s revenues and expenses through 2026.

This is this first year ORDA has created a multi-year budget plan. Ruocco said the authority has implemented the multi-year budgeting process over several months.

“It improves transparency and accountability,” she said.

For each of the three fiscal years after 2022-2023, the authority expects revenue to steadily increase by $3.9 million, $4.6 million and $2.6 million, respectively.

The authority expects to spend more on employees with each passing year, but projects costs on “professional services contracts” and supplies and materials to remain the same. The financial plan shows a $560,000 drop in “other operating expenditures” by 2024-2025.

The capital budget is projected to drop to $80 million after the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

ORDA officials don’t anticipate any deficits in the 2022-2026 financial plan.


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