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Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority still backs closures

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The Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority maintains that its budget reduction plan — which includes closing three parks and the Shannon Scout Hut and Recreation Center — is the best option in its current fiscal situation.

Jerry Lee, chairman of the RFPRA board, spoke to the Floyd County Commission during a budget session Thursday. He described how the proposed $100,000 cut to the authority’s budget is the catalyst for a list of possible changes.

“Two years ago, we discussed the hypothetical situation of how we would approach the county cutting our funding an additional $100,000-$200,000 and what impact it would have as far as closing parks or ending programs,” Lee said. “Well, we’re there.”

He said the RFPRA staff looked at what parks and programs received the least amount of use and targeted the cuts to affect the fewest people.

Besides closing the Shannon center to activities and rentals, which RFPRA Executive Director Richard Garland said would save approximately $9,000, the authority also would stop maintaining Armuchee Park and Coosa Park in the county and Eagle Park in North Rome, effectively closing them.

Lee said they have done everything they can as far as staffing, cutting nine full-time positions since 2007 and freezing other positions.

County Commissioner Garry Fricks and Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell brought up the possibility of the recreation authority increasing fees for their programs.

Fricks explained that it is a power the RFPRA has in order to create revenue.

“The county has almost $3.5 million less revenue than three years ago,” Fricks said. “We don’t want to have to go to the users, but right now the only alternative we have is to raise taxes.”

The RFPRA staff has already proposed increasing fees in 2014.

A fee schedule for this year provided by the authority has most youth sports fees raised an average of $8. Garland said they can look at bigger increases but at some point higher fees will be counterproductive.

“If they expect us to come up with $100,000 through increased fees, that’s just astronomical,” Lee said following Thursday’s session.

In addition to less money from the county, the RFPRA budget also has to absorb new expenditures in salaries and a radio maintenance fee that total $239,500.

The County Commission is implementing a plan to increase all county employees’ salaries by 1 percent this year. The authority also is responsible for $10,000 as its share of maintaining the new countywide communication system.

A loss of $33,000 from the Rome Youth Activities League annual contract also is contributing to the pinch, but Lee told the Commission there is a chance the YAI could renew the agreement.

Garland said he has a meeting set up with YAI president Brian Corntassel on Sunday.