County parks and rec struggling to stay afloat

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Free time is a precious gift for many working Americans, and increasingly, people are opting not to spend that time on the golf course, especially when football season and hunting seasons begin.

It’s a trend board members of the Warren County Parks and Recreation Department said is making it difficult to pay the bills.

“Recreation does not have the money to fund what we got,” Dale McDuff, District 1 board member, said to the supervisors during their work session Monday. “Golf has taken kind of a back burner. It’s a declining type of thing at this point.”

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Golf pro Kent Smith said, “It’s a national trend. It’s not just us.”

The department approached the board requesting funding to allow them to pay payroll and other expenses until they receive their next allotment from the county in October. They estimated they’ll need around $40,000 to make ends meet.

“We know we’re not going to have enough money to make it through the end of the month,” McDuff said.

Mary Sellers, office manager, said the golf course was down 1,500 rounds this year, and attendance in the county’s soccer league dropped below 500 when it was previously at 800.

“We just don’t have the money to function,” McDuff said.

Upkeep for the golf course isn’t cheap — estimated at $15,000 per green per year.

With the county’s 19 greens, the cost adds up, as do paying for the upkeep of the soccer fields, baseball fields, trash pick up, utilities and payroll, said those interceding on behalf of the department during the meeting.

Sellers said the soccer program cost around $70,000 alone last year.

County administrator John Smith said he would work to determine the exact amount they need to finish up the month.

“They’ll leave it up to me to figure out a comfortable amount,” he said.

The department also asked to address long-term funding issues.

They received $361,000 from the county this year, John Smith said, and received extra money to cover expenses, which they want to permanently add to their budget, for a total budget of $433,000.

“I gave them about $72,000 in added expense about during the spring this year. They’re wanting the board to give them that amount of money (again) so they can have a minimum loss or no loss,” he said. “Their whole thing is that they want more money out of us because if they get more money they don’t have to come back to the table begging.”

The board, John Smith said, talked about making the $40,000 an advance on a future allotment instead of adding it to the total budget.

“I would probably reduce their allocation in the spring or summer when people are playing and their cash is flowing,” he said.

Board President Richard George said, “As far as I’m concerned, we need to see you continue to operate. We have a duty to provide services and try to make improvements as we can.”

John Smith said the board will vote on the approximate $40,000 at its board meeting Monday.