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Rec Director to Use 'Million and a Half' Ways to Cut $1.5M

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Copyright 2013 The Topeka Capital-Journal
All Rights Reserved

Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas)
October 22, 2013 Tuesday
542 words
County looks to make $1.5 million in parks and recreation cuts
Tim Hrenchir.

tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com

It's no walk in the park to cut $1.5 million from Shawnee County's parks and recreation budget.

Parks and recreation director John Knight, in working to achieve a budget reduction in that amount, is looking at potential cuts involving such things as community centers, aquatics facilities, Forbes Golf Course and the preschool the county operates, he said last week to the county's parks and recreation advisory board.

"To get to a million and a half dollars worth of cuts, there's about a million and a half different ways that we're going to use to get there," he said. "There's not just one apple on the tree that I can pull off to get to this level."

Knight told advisory board members he hopes to meet individually with commissioners before setting up a public work session where he would present a full package of suggested cuts.

County Commissioners Shelly Buhler and Bob Archer were in the majority as that body voted 2-1 in August to approve the finalized version of a 2014 county budget that reduces the amount earmarked for the parks and recreation department by 10 percent - or $1,518,104 - from this year's parks and recreation department budget total of $15,181,041.

Commissioners Archer, Buhler and Kevin Cook had all voted earlier in favor of the 10 percent parks and recreation cut, and Cook had sought to reduce that department's budget even more.

Knight has served since 2000 as director of the parks and recreation department, which grew when city of Topeka and Shawnee County parks and recreation departments merged Jan. 1, 2012.

He told the advisory board he was giving "serious consideration" to closing the nine-hole Forbes Golf Course the county operates. The county also runs the 18-hole Lake Shawnee Golf Course and the 18-hole Cypress Ridge Golf Course.

Knight said there had also been discussion in his department about closing the Creative Play preschool program it offers at three locations for children ages 3 to 5.

Knight acknowledged parents could find other preschools to serve their children, but stressed that the Creative Play program benefits the county from a business aspect.

He said of the participants: "We've got them on a mailing list starting at (age) 3. They come in to get a valuable experience at one of our community centers. The parents find out that they trust us, they like the programs we offer. And many of them, you'll see their names from age 3 all the way up to 16 and still taking our programs."

Knight said the county was looking at potentially arranging to work with community partners to operate the currently closed Abbott and Rice Community Centers, and at reducing hours of operation for Garfield, Oakland, Hillcrest and Paris Community Centers.

He said his department was "looking hard at the Oakland Pool" and considering closing the Lake Shawnee Swim Beach, reducing the Hillcrest Pool's hours of operation and closing or reducing hours of operation for the Rossville Pool.

Knight said the county also could save money by discontinuing the annual "Spirit of Kansas" festival it holds July 4 at Lake Shawnee, as well as other events the county puts on.

Still, Knight said such events are "tremendously important" to the community. He said that if the county didn't put them on, he didn't know who would.

October 22, 2013

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