Hillsborough commissioners approve controversial after-school parks program overhaul
Hillsborough County commissioners voted narrowly in favor of a program to dramatically scale back after-school parks programs Wednesday, a proposal that has drawn spirited condemnation from parents.
They also voted to revisit the issue at a workshop next month. Commissioner Ken Hagan is hoping to win consideration of a hybrid proposal he has crafted that would keep the program alive at more parks than what was approved Wednesday.
The approved plan, put forward by County Administrator Mike Merrill, would scale back after-school programs now offered at 41 parks to just 11 regional locations. Children whose parents are unable to transport them to one of those sites will be forced to use school-based after-school programs, which cost the same though some parents say they offer fewer and less rich activities to keep children active.
Parents and children have rallied to push back proposals to eliminate the program in recent years. It has been the target of county budget officials due to declining tax receipts. Initially free and used by up to 6,000 children annually, the parks program began charging in recent years to try to bridge a gap in costs, only to see enrollment dwindle to 1,800 children.
Hagan, Les Miller and Victor Crist voted against the scaleback. Hagan is proposing to keep the program going at 19 additional parks.