Tough times in Douglas: Kahle may close
Kahle Park Community Center and two other recreation facilities in Douglas County could be considered for closure. Ten full-time and numerous part-time positions now vacant may not be filled, all due to the budget deficit said Director of Community Services Scott Morgan.
“There could be some very tough choices, including consideration of full-scale facility closures at Kahle Park and the fairgrounds,” Morgan said at a meeting this week of the Douglas County Parks & Recreation Commission.
“As soon as I know the extent of the cuts I’ll pass them along to you so you are aware, but it’s bad ” as bad as it’s been in the 14 years I have been here.
“There’s no place to cut but people and even with that, the budget won’t be balanced,” he said.
The plans, which will be presented to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners during their March 19 budget workshops, would seriously cut the budget rather than ask for more money, Morgan said.
“We’ll know what direction the commissioners will take at their May meeting,” Morgan said. “But the picture isn’t rosy. I wanted to prepare the Parks and Recreation Commission for the tough decisions they could be facing.”
Lampe Park can’t be closed and will have to be maintained at some level, but sports organizations like soccer and baseball may be required to pay for night lighting. The Senior Center, which serves the senior population with everything from medical checks and meals on wheels to their homemaker program could also see significant cuts, Morgan said.
Budget woes stemming from Douglas County’s room tax fund aren’t new.
Douglas County’s Parks and Recreation Dept. once received 80 percent of the room tax revenues, but with the passage of AB 616 in 1996, a portion of those revenues were siphoned off for tourist-promoting entities like the Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley Visitors Authorities.
Per that legislation, the percentage of funding dedicated to tourism promotion increased every year until 2007, when tourism received a maximum 65 percent of the room tax, Morgan said.
Last year, Douglas County’s flagging Parks and Recreation budget was balanced with $280,000 in reserves, but through savings in the current year that debt was repaid. Douglas County’s Senior Center budget, which also relies on room tax funds, was propped up this year using Carson Area Metropolitan Planning Organization funding, a one-time revenue source, Morgan said.
Despite a slight increase in revenues county-wide, expenditures like unfunded mandates, merit increases, health insurance benefits and other inflationary costs perpetrate budget deficits in Douglas County, Morgan said.
Senior advocate Paul Lockwood said the Senior Center has lost four people and he does not expect them to be replaced. The population in Douglas County has stabilized, but the numbers of seniors is still on the rise and with that, an increased demand for services, Lockwood said.
“The older the population gets the more help they need,” he said. “I don’t care how bad our tax situation is.”
Library Director Linda Deacy said the Library Board will probably have to cut expenses at least another $50,000 to $60,000 this year, primarily in salaries. The challenge for library officials is assuring essential services aren’t cut, but the library gets busier when the economy is depressed, Deacy said.
“We’ll probably have to cut one 8-hour day at the Lake and shorten hours in the valley,” she said. “More people need computers to apply for jobs, write resumes and cover letters and seek government programs for help.
“We will have a presentation for the commissioners next month. Then they can decide,” she said.