Park and Recreation Commission presents budget priorities

2/27/24 BOCC meeting

Park and Recreation Commission chair Kip Kiser presents the group’s budget priorities to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.

More funding for land acquisition, maintenance, programming, safety, and a co-op extension program topped the list of priorities that the Park and Recreation Commission (PRC) presented to county commissioners this past Tuesday. The Board of County Commissioners also heard presentations by the Lake Wylie Marine Commission and Air Quality Commission, but in this article we will cover the budget priorities covered by the PRC.

Kip Kiser, the PRC’s current chairperson, presented six budget priorities for the county commissioners to consider. He was unable to give exact numbers for several of the budget priorities because that information has not been shared with the PRC. Here are the priorities:

  1. Land acquisition – $50-75M
    1. PRC wants to prioritize buying land for more parks, greenways, and nature preserves as our county develops rapidly.
    2. Park & Recreation staff have said that some of the land they have looked at is already developed. If this land is acquired, it will cost even more to remove structures or other existing development before Park & Recreation can use it.
  2. Deferred maintenance
    1. PRC wants to “fix what is broken first” and requests a list of what is broken so they can give specific recommendations to county commissioners.
  3. Routine maintenance – $3M
    1. Maintenance is most needed in underserved areas. PRC cannot justify the $3M request until they receive more information on what routine maintenance is needed from Park & Recreation staff.
  4. Programming for children and seniors – $300k
  5. Safety in parks
    1. Many residents believe that parks and greenways are unsafe. While the data does not support this, PRC believes that perceptions can often be reality and recommends putting more resources towards security personnel at Park & Recreation facilities.
  6. Co-op extension
    1. PRC recommends that Mecklenburg County supplement funding for the co-op extension program so that co-op staff can continue their outreach and direct service work.

Several county commissioners asked questions of Kiser and other PRC members. The most relevant takeaways are below.

  • Commissioner Griffin asked if there have been discussions about adding another recreation center like Eastway Recreation Center. Kiser clarified that the plan has always been for four recreation centers, one in each quadrant of the county, but right now there are only two. When the 5-year budget was being determined last year, PRC was told that there wasn’t enough money for another recreation facility.
  • Commissioner Altman asked for PRC to develop a consensus on which of the six priorities are most important. This way, county commissioners can be sure to fund the most critical items.
  • Commissioner Jerrell requested that PRC and Park & Recreation staff work with community groups like schools and churches to utilize other spaces since another recreation center is 8-9 years away. Kiser agreed that several partnerships can be formed, but the limiting factor right now is a lack of Park & Recreation programming.
  • Commissioner Dunlap asked for PRC or Park & Recreation staff to calculate the number of acres needed to reach our park, greenway, and nature preserve goals so we can better track our progress towards that land acquisition goal.

We are glad to see that the PRC has formally expressed the need for land acquisition funding to ensure that opportunities to complete the greenway network and equitably build out future Park and Recreation facilities are not lost. It is also essential to catch up on deferred maintenance and complete necessary maintenance in underserved areas. Decisions about security funding should be data-driven, so we are hopeful that the PRC and staff will work together to share information about how to implement security measures that are appropriate to the needs of people using the facilities.

Do you support Park & Recreation? Sign our petition for more funding for parks, greenways, and nature preserves!

View the meeting recording here and check out the meeting agenda here.


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