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Pasco parks department: Millions more needed for maintenance

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's parks and recreation department is asking for millions in new funding to replace funds lost during the recession to tackle maintenance.

The department, making a pitch Tuesday to county commissioners as they prepare for budget talks, said $6.5 million is needed over the next five years after years of successive cuts.

About 30 percent of department staffers, including 48 carpenters, equipment operators and others, have been let go since 2007, the recession's start. Most of those jobs were in maintenance.

"If we cannot begin a significant effort to address these issues, facilities will continue to deteriorate," parks and recreation manager Brian Taylor told commissioners.

For the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1, the department seeks $570,000 in new funding. That breaks down to $485,000 for the parks and recreation department and $85,000 for facilities management, a separate department that focuses mainly on county buildings and grounds.

Taylor proposed partnering with facilities management to ease some costs in the parks department and free up staff to tackle routine jobs like mowing grass, repairing irrigation lines, painting fences and trimming trees. Facilities management crews would handle more complex issues, such as plumbing and carpentry jobs.

The following year, the department would seek $879,000 for fiscal 2016, $1.7 million for 2017, $2.6 million for 2018 and $990,000 for 2019.

Taylor warned that without the funding increases, some facilities, including playgrounds, could end up closed for public safety reasons. He did not single out any particular facilities or say how long they can go without increased revenue.

Tuesday's presentation was among several by department heads as the county develops its spending plan for next year. The administration's first budget draft is due to commissioners July 8. They have until September to decide on the requests.

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236. Follow at @richshopes.

Pasco parks department: Millions more needed for maintenance 07/01/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 6:57pm]
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