Proposed cuts of $5 million will devastate parks and community centers, Kansas City park board members warned the City Council on Thursday.
The cuts could mean closed pools, minimal tree trimming, reduced park mowing, neglected landscaping, and few repairs to community centers, fountains or athletic fields, park officials said.
“It is imperative that some of these funds be restored,” board member David Mecklenburg said as the council began debating the new budget. “We are being crippled.”
The council must adopt a budget in March, and it takes effect May 1.
Board members said the planned cuts are particularly troublesome because department spending has already been slashed over the past five years.
Park staffing has dropped by 170 positions, a 35 percent reduction since 2000, said board member Aimee Gromowsky. She noted that tree trimming has plunged from 28,000 trees in 2000 to just 4,600 trees this year. Elimination of the greenhouse, she said, also has left some park landscaping in poor shape.
Park Board Chair Jean Paul Chaurand reminded the council that the city’s motor vehicle license fee will expire in August. Unless voters renew it at an upcoming election, he said, loss of that fee would cost the department an additional $3.5 million for park maintenance and community centers, which would take a big toll on those operations.
Chaurand said the board realizes the city has budget challenges and is not seeking the full $5 million. But he urged restoration of $2 million. Council members Dick Davis and John Sharp said they thought the proposed budget cuts go too far, and they hope to provide some relief.
“These cuts are just too onerous and do lasting damage to our park and boulevard system,” Sharp said.
City Manager Troy Schulte said he didn’t disagree, but finding $2 million for parks will require cuts from some other worthy department, and there’s no easy source for those funds.