Recreation Department should stick to budget

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2000

If we know we have $100, can we plan to spend $120?

If we know we have $100, can we plan to spend $120?

For the Brookhaven Recreation Department, apparently, the answeris yes — thanks the generosity of aldermen and city officials atbudget revision time.

According to Recreation Department Director Hansel King, budgetshortfalls of past years have been approved in September and madeup the next August when city fathers revise spending totals andmove money around to cover expenses. That’s happened again thisyear to the tune of $50,000.

This “we’ll cover you later” approach sounds like city fathersare writing blank checks to the recreation department and itsgoverning board, the Brookhaven Parks Commission.

Commission officials say the additional funding request was notunreasonable. They pointed out last year’s city funding, forsalaries and general operating cots, amounted to a 14 percent cutwhile program participation rates were up 35 percent.

That’s all well and good, but why was the request needed atall?

The department knew early in the budget year what it had tospend. Why couldn’t it stick to its budget?

While cutting programs, losing personnel or not maintainingfacilities are unpleasant options, they are possible realities whenmoney is tight.

The city’s taxpayers find ways to cut expenses when theirdollars don’t stretch as far as they once did. They don’t continueto spend and bank on the boss giving their salaries a boost atyear’s end.

The idea of bringing the recreation department under theauspices of the mayor and board of aldermen has been raised in thepast. However, when the issue rises, park commission leaders toutthe benefits of keeping “politics” out of the recreationdepartment, and aldermen elect to keep the status quo.

Amid concerns about next year’s spending plans, aldermenapproved the additional money in a 4-3 vote earlier this week.Board members’ concerns were about next year’s budget amount beingsufficient and recreation department officials not coming backlater to ask for more money.

“As far as I can tell, I’m fine,” King told city officials.

Throughout the next year, city officials need to make sure Kingand the park commission abide by that statement.

The airport, which had its own governing board like therecreation department, was brought back under city board controlearlier this year. If spending habits of the recreation departmentcontinue next year as in years past, it may be time to ground thatdepartment as well.