The city budget for 2004/05 allocates nearly $18.2-mil for the Parks & Recreation Department. The large sum is needed to maintain facilities and to support over 300 full time and part time employees, 90 professional contract employees and 150 sports officials. The department balances the fiscal budget with credits and debits. Perhaps, there should be a balanced budget of pluses and minuses for suitable entertainment, recreational programs and park maintenance.
The department consists of three divisions: Administration, Recreation Programming and Parks & Beautification. In addition to administration, this group includes Planning and Projects, Public Information, Special Events and Cultural Affairs. The budget for the division is over $3-mil.
Planning and Projects is working on an agreement with the Safety Harbor commission to contribute to the joint expansion of the Countryside Sports Complex. This is a plus. Of the 1,500 children who participate in soccer, football and cheerleading, only 34% of them live in Clearwater. Parks & Rec totally funds the program and is requesting a fair percentage of the cost from the county. The minus is the unwillingness of the Pinellas County Commission, at this time, to add financial support.
Special Events produces activities such as 4th of July, Fun & Sun, Turkey Trot and the Holiday Parade. Concerts and entertainment are also provided at different city venues for community enjoyment. The minus is the problems caused by Coachman Park alternative rock concerts. Residents objected to excessive noise, vulgar lyrics and traffic snarls. A change of venue - Bright House Networks Field - for these concerts would be a plus.
Cultural Affairs is responsible for implementing a Public Art program and stimulating the growth of art organizations and facilities. A cultural plan is a plus because it enriches the community. On the minus side is a reduction of monies for the Clearwater City Players, sponsored by Parks & Rec for over 30 years. A theatre troupe can be an asset to any arts program.
Recreational Programming spends nearly $5.7-mil annually to maintain and staff centers and sports complexes. These centers provide a wide variety of recreational activities - team leagues, individual sports, aquatics, socials - for all ages and special interests groups. Definitely a plus.
By leasing (rent free) aging community centers to not for profit agencies, Programming decreased their share of the 2004/05 budget by 4.8%. The Martin Luther King Center was transferred to the African American Leadership Council. President of the Council, Bilal F. Habeeb-ullah, and his staff established academic programs and saved the city over $200,000. A big plus.
The North Greenwood Performing Arts Academy, under Director, Maurice Mickens, offers a diversified program of dance and theatre classes as well as tutoring. Mickens believes involvement in the arts benefits children in other aspects of their lives. A plus for the King's Highway Center.
Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast is housed at Wood Valley Center. Aaron Mcglon, Clearwater area director, recently opened the North Greenwood Boys and Girls at Jack Russell Stadium. The clubs' after school programs promote education, self-motivation and career preparation. The space is shared with Winning Inning, organized by Randy Holland. Continued occupancy will depend on future plans for the site. Boys and Girls Club and Winning Inning are pluses.
Residents who live adjacent to the old centers complain about the city's transfer of staff and programs to the new complexes. Some object to being charged fees to use the old facilities and for specialized classes. Others contend that the larger complexes are not in walking distance. They consider the changes a loss to their neighborhoods and a minus.
Parks & Beautification has a 2004/05 budget of almost $9.5-mil with a 4.4% increase of $400,610 over the previous budget. The escalated price of health insurance and additional funds for information technology contributed to the increase.
Expenditures for utilities rose $136,720 because of a $108,230 increase for the new Bright House Field. The budget for the complex includes $142,730 for utilities and $138,950 for electric. The Phillies will reimburse the city 25%. Kevin Dunbar, the director of Parks & Recreation, said that rent and revenues from the ball club will "wash" some of the Field's expense. Plus or minus?
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