ROCK ISLAND -- The Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department has trimmed costs at the expense of community amenities, but some can be saved with the community's help.|
To balance its proposed $8.2 million budget for fiscal year 2010-11, the parks department plans to close the Hasselroth Dog Park and pull back funding from the Genesius Guild Theater Foundation, youth baseball and softball and from a summer day camp program it operates at three area schools.
"Right now, in the budget, all of that is gone," parks and recreation director Bill Nelson explained Tuesday. "Parks, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and those sorts of things don't have a revenue stream. So some of those programs, like the school camps, that we don't charge for, unfortunately are the ones we've had to target."
The department is "suffering a down turn" in its budget because of growing increases in the minimum wage, no increase in its property tax levy the last two years and lower revenue, Mr. Nelson said.
"Our department is very dependent on revenue dollars. Over 75 percent of our budget comes from fees people pay, not from taxes," he said. "But when personnel expenses go up, that revenue takes a hit."
Cutting services was a last resort, but unavoidable this year, Mr. Nelson said.
"When we first started examining our budget numbers, it was very apparent we just were not going to be able to keep our same levels of service," Mr. Nelson said. "So we began to run through the process of deciding which things matter the most, which recover their own revenue and which support other programs."
Some services can be saved with the community's help, he said, Support is building for the dog park, the first of its kind in the Quad-Cities and the only one in Rock Island. It costs $1,500 a year to operate the park; as of Tuesday morning, $1,200 had been donated to save it.
It costs about $26,000 to provide free summer camps for 300-400 Rock Island youths at three school sites on a daily basis. They get weeks of organized recreation, mentoring, a daily meal and more.
"That cut concerned us," Mr. Nelson said. "It doesn't cost a lot to keep the dog park open, but how do I, in good conscience, keep the dog park when I'll have 300 kids going without lunch this summer. That's the process we used to balance the budget."
The parks department is accepting donations for both the dog park and summer camp program. Anything raised above the yearly operating expenses will be funneled into the services for next fiscal year.
"We're going to have another tough year next year, so anything above and beyond will be earmarked specifically for those activities," Mr. Nelson said.
Mr. Nelson also encouraged people to offer more support to Genesius Guild and little league.
Send checks payable to Rock Island Parks and Recreation, with "dog park" or "summer camp" in the memo line, to the Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department, 1320 24th St., Rock Island, IL 61201. Donations also can be dropped off at that address and at the Rock Island Fitness and Activity Center (RIFAC), 4303 24th St.
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