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County might cut parks funding 34 percent

Clark commissioners divided on support for National Trail Parks and Recreation District.

Clark County commissioners may cut parks and recreation funding by more than 34 percent from 2012 levels.

As part of the 2013 budget, Commissioners John Detrick and Rick Lohnes are considering plans to allocate $25,000 to the National Trail Parks and Recreation District, down from $38,000 last year. Commissioners are expected to revisit the issue in July.

Commissioner David Hartley is pushing for commissioners to appropriate $240,000 to return parks and recreation funding from the county close to where their funding was three years ago.

“The amenities they provide are important for the community and the people of this county; $25,000 is not enough,” Hartley said.

Lohnes voted against funding NTPRD last year and was initially against funding the organization this year because the organization receives levy dollars.

In 2011, voters approved a 0.6-mill, 5-year tax levy for NTPRD and the Clark County Park District, which will generate $390,000 for the park district and $1 million for NTPRD to maintain green space.

The funds cannot be used to support recreational activities, but Lohnes says the organization doesn’t need additional money.

Lohnes reached a compromise with Detrick to allocate $25,000, down from the $38,000 Detrick proposed in early budget discussions.

NTPRD Director Leann Castillo said money from the tax levy does not cover maintenance costs, which are more than $1.2 million, or cover recreational costs.

National Trail was formed more than 10 years ago when the city and county combined recreation departments.

A three-year agreement called for the city and county to pay operating and capital money, County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said.

The county continued to fund them after the agreement expired, giving $329,700 in 2004, $195,900 in 2005 and about $280,000 through 2008. The county reduced funding to about $167,000 in 2009. The county contributed $83,500 in 2010, but did not fund the district in 2011, Kennedy said.

City officials had been giving NTPRD $2 million a year. In 2010 city funding dropped to about $1.8 million, but the city also set aside $300,000 for capital improvements.

In the last two years, city funding for the organization has remained steady at $1.1 million.

Castillo said the organization would prefer county commissioners provide the $280,000 annually as stated in an agreement more than 10 years ago, but she is pleased commissioners plan to allocate money to National Trail.

“We’re grateful for any amount of funding they can give us,” Castillo said.

Because of funding constraints, the organization has cut full-time staff from more than 40 employees about seven years ago to 28, Castillo said.

“We’re trying to provide quality services, but we’re doing that with limited resources and staff,” Castillo said.

Detrick said NTPRD remains an important resource for the community, but an agreement to provide NTPRD about $280,000 annually expired and was made before a budget crunch.

He said county officials are grappling with a number of financial unknowns, which includes the extension of a half percent sales tax, potential cuts to local government funds and an uncertain amount in casino funds.

“I’m hoping to get more for (NTPRD) later,” Detrick said. “I’m all for them. Parks are a quality of life issue, and they help attract perspective businesses to a community.”

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