Scare tactics won't work in this harsh budget climate
Hernando TodayThe issue: $1 million budget cut to county's parks and recreation department. Our opinion: Find ways to cut bloated department and keep parks open.
Published: June 5, 2010
Published: June 5, 2010
The director of the county's parks and recreation department is taking the wrong direction in how to deal with a mandated $1 million funding cut next fiscal year.
Instead of scare tactics about closing parks and cutting services to taxpayers and patrons, Parks and Recreation Director Pat Fagan needs to figure out how to keep as many parks open as possible without spending so much money.
Instead of trying to figure out how to keep his fiefdom intact, Fagan needs to put the taxpayers and residents first - especially youngsters who primarily use our parks for sports and recreation.
Hernando County's parks and recreation bureaucracy became bloated when tax dollars were flowing in faster than government could spend them. Fagan now needs to figure out how to dismantle that bureaucracy to best preserve the parks for the public.
Not dismantle the parks to preserve the bureaucracy.
Fagan needs to take a businesslike approach to running the parks and recreation department in the future. Few business owners would hire only full-time workers with full-time benefits to cut grass, maintain facilities and take parking fees at Pine Island.
It's ludicrous the parks and recreation department has no part-time employees. It's one reason why the department's budget has become so bloated and targeted for gutting in these austere budgetary times.
It's also ridiculous the department hires day labor to help with the job of maintaining the parks, when it has 35 full-time workers, spending more than $1.3 million of a $2.9 million annual budget on salaries and benefits.
What needs to happen is for the parks and recreation department to be completely revamped, with its leader finding the best and cheapest ways to maintain our parks.
That may mean bidding out the maintenance and upkeep of each park to the lowest bidder. That may mean closing a park that gets little traffic. That may mean leaving recreation duties to community organizations that already take care of those matters. That may mean developing partnerships with the city of Brooksville and the Hernando County School District to help run and maintain the parks.
What it most definitely will mean is the parks and recreation department will not be run the same way in the future.
But that doesn't mean we can't have nice parks that are open when the public needs them.
It just means our leaders are going to have find a different way to do it.
The public isn't going to put up with closed parks when nearly half of the budget funds full-time salaries and benefits.
In these tough economic times, government is going to have to get creative.