Letter: Kendall reveals vision for Parks and Rec budget
Kim J Kendall
St Augustine, FL
As a Republican running for the St. Johns County Commission District 2 seat, I have a very specific vision for our Parks & Recreation (Rec) budget. Having co-founded the St. Johns County Middle School Sports Program, I have dealt with field space issues that other athletic groups have come to me with as well.
First, we need to look at the Parks & Rec’s books, as there are areas under Parks & Rec that are losing money, such as:
- The golf course that we purchased (with upgrades) for $8.7 million -a new fleet of golf carts was purchased this year for $250,000, AND the golf course loses approximately $200,000 annually.
- The equestrian center is another area that is under Parks & Rec that we have upgraded for $1.4 million and loses approximately $26,000 annually. If residents want to keep the golf course and equestrian center, then we should sell or lease them to a private company.
- The St. Augustine Amphitheater is a great community asset and should be kept, but it should be run by a private management company. The county has reported approximately $2 million in losses on the amphitheater since 2008. Also, private management companies were proposing 50 shows a year vs. the county’s only 38 shows. So, even though the direct and indirect economic impact of the Amphitheater is estimated at $17 million, a private management company would have impacted economic growth at over $21 million. That means if we would have had a private management company running it – we would have kept the amphitheater AND an additional $6 million.
Second, field space for athletes is an issue. Solutions include: allowing student athletes access to the elementary and middle school fields, adding field lighting, and developing the 35 acres of donated land in World Golf Village (WGV) into park facilities. Creating the 35 acres in WGV for field space would also provide relief to other associations, as well, since they are absorbing the extra students from the WGV area.
Where private sponsors don’t cover, funding can be obtained from shifting the savings in other areas, like privatizing the golf course and use of the Tree Bank Fund. The Tree Bank Fund is primarily used for tree beautification in median areas and green spaces. In past years, some of these funds have been transferred to other areas and used for things such as parks and constructing buildings. The Tree Bank Fund is $2.5 million this year alone and would be another solution to getting the 35 acres cleared.
Third, for those who don’t know, students are paying a user fee for the fields. A fee of $10 per student, per sport, is paid to the Parks & Rec. Another reason why parents want to “see the books” is because we continually are told there is not enough money. Yet, over the years, funds from Parks and Rec have sometimes been transferred for other uses.
Parents want to highlight the economic impact of these sports fields. A recent study showed that a lacrosse tournament held at Fleming Island (in which St. Johns County athletes participated) netted Clay County over $1 million in direct and indirect economic impact over a two-day period.
Political Advertisement paid for and approved by Kim J. Kendall, Republican, for St. Johns County Commission, District 2. For more information on Kim J. Kendall’s vision, visit www.VoteKimKendall.com