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Balanced budget plans: Community activities on chopping block

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Part of the stated mission of the city of Killeen is to provide services and facilities that improve the quality of life of residents. That mission could be in jeopardy if proposed budget cuts to the community services department — the city’s overhauled parks and recreation department — are approved by the Killeen City Council in September.

According to a budget presentation by City Manager Ron Olson at a council workshop Tuesday, the department is expected to work with a pared down budget with limited hours at the Killeen Community Center, no funding for needed repairs at the Pershing Park Pool, which has been closed to the public since 2016, and the slicing away of fitness classes for Lions Club Park members among other measures.

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Killeen City Manager-Ron Olson

Killeen City Manager, Ron Olson, is seen in his office on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

The city painted the cuts as short-term moves to maximize the department’s limited budget, but future projections of the city’s operational fund show little help is on the way.

The operational fund, which pays for the city administration, public safety and community services departments, is expected to operate at a loss every year into the future. Current projections show that fund alone operating at a $27.6 million shortfall by 2037 if drastic measures are not taken in the interim.

In the meantime, residents can expect tight times at their favorite public facilities.

PLANNED CUTS

Broad program cuts are expected throughout the community services department — most notably in the elimination of morning hours at the Killeen Community Center, an activities and events hub next to the popular Bob Gilmore Senior Center at East Veterans Memorial Boulevard and South W.S. Young Drive.

The community center offers 30 hours per week of open gym time free to the public, according to a presentation. The center’s new hours, which would begin at noon each day, would cut most of those free gym hours unless the department overhauls the center’s scheduling.

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Killeen Community Center

The Killeen City Council's proposed budget for 2018 would cut the morning hours at the Killeen Community Center. Rather than opening at 8 a.m., hours would be pushed back until noon.

Community Services Director Brett Williams said eliminating morning hours at the center was necessary to preserve staffing of afternoon hours, which are more popular with youth.

“We’ve got a budget number we’ve got to meet,” Williams said. “We’ve got to make a decision between youth and adults.”

Council members were mostly silent on the downsizing, but Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King, who has campaigned to renovate the Bob Gilmore center since her election in May, said the cuts at the community center were troubling.

“I’m concerned about this,” Nash-King said. “The Killeen Community Center is the backbone of this community; it’s where we all go.”

The community center is also proposing to close Mondays.

The senior center will not face any budget cuts in the coming year, according to Williams, but a request for $1.65 million to build a new center to replace the aging facility was disapproved by Olson.

At Lions Club Park’s Family Recreation Center, the department is expected to cut half of its free classes for its 356 members amid declining membership rates in the past year. The recreation center offers 26 fitness classes a week, including Zumba, yoga and indoor cycling.

Williams did not specify which classes were expected to be cut. The cost of keeping the free classes on the schedule is about $14,000.

The city is also proposing to cut four sports from the adult team sports program, which only had 117 registrants in the last fiscal year. The cuts would include the volleyball, basketball, flag football and kickball leagues while keeping slow-pitch softball.

Williams said one idea to keep those sports alive would be to hold tournament events periodically with private partners.

AQUATICS DOWNSIZING

The city will once again have no funding allocated for needed repairs at Pershing Park Pool, which has been closed to the public since 2016.

“It’s in need of a renovation and isn’t fit to open,” city spokeswoman Allison Walker said in a June email.

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Pershing Park Pool

A padlock and zip-tie hold the gate to Pershing Park Pool closed in Killeen.

On Tuesday, Williams said the plans for Pershing Park were to bring the facility back online with a hybrid “splash pad” and playground layout rather than an actual pool.

Walker said Friday the city did not have a proposed cost for the new facility.

Pershing Park is one of three public pools alongside the Family Aquatics Center at Lions Club Park and the Long Branch Pool at Branch Drive and Rancier Avenue. The aquatics center, which can hold 700 residents at a time, reaches capacity a few days a week during the summer, according to Director of Communications Hilary Shine, with residents often having to wait to get in.

However, a facilities assessment approved by the city and conducted by engineering firm Halff & Associates in June 2016 showed Killeen was at a surplus for public pools, but in need of an additional two “splash pads,” which are a hybrid of playground equipment with water features. Half & Associates also drafted the city’s water and wastewater master plan in 2012.

Meanwhile, the aquatics center is facing budget issues of its own. According to the budget presentation, the outdoor pool has $350,000 in maintenance needs, including an estimated $300,000 replastering project and pump room repairs. Olson disapproved spending on both of those projects in the coming fiscal year.

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Killeen Aquatic Center

Residents swim in the lap pool at Killeen Aquatic Center in Killeen. The Killeen City Council's proposed budget for 2018 would close the lap pool at the aquatic center.

Instead, Olson proposed the project be moved to the city’s as-of-now-theoretical capital improvements fund, which will function as a facility improvement clearinghouse paid for in part by property tax revenue.

Another idea floated by the city was to create a separate sinking fund — or “rainy day” fund — in the aquatics department specifically for infrastructure repairs, but Olson favored using the larger capital improvements fund to better track infrastructure improvements citywide.

The department also plans to close the facility Mondays for a scheduled maintenance day, unfund eight to nine seasonal lifeguard positions and no longer provide a designated time for lap swimming on any day.

MORE ON THE BUDGET

Alongside the community services presentation to the council Tuesday, city staff also presented updates on the city’s public safety departments, and two of the city’s moneymaking funds — water-sewer and solid waste.

The council discussed potentially outsourcing the city’s solid waste enterprise during the city’s budget crisis in 2016, and in March elected to give Olson and his staff six months to identify efficiencies within the department, investigate a possible privatization and present the council with recommendations.

The city was in the process of drafting a request-for-proposal document to outsource the department before Olson’s arrival in February. The council could elect to restart that process if Olson’s report favors privatization.

Olson said Tuesday he expected to give an update on the department in October, but a presentation from Director of Public Works David Olson showed the department operating at a $644,000 profit.

However, the department hasn’t offered a recycling program since September, when the City Council voted to eliminate the program as part of a series of cuts meant to counteract an $8 million preliminary shortfall in the 2017 budget.

POLICE

During the public safety discussion, interim police Chief Margaret Young highlighted a proposed cut of 20 vacant commissioned officer positions in the department as well as three vacant noncommissioned positions and two vacant animal services positions.

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Police Cars

FILE - Police vehicles are seen outside the Killeen Police Department Headquarters.

The city’s proposed total budget is $180.49 million. The city’s proposed general fund budget is $82.13 million.

The police cuts come amid a planned reorganization initiative that would cut the department’s divisions from five to four and redirect more officers to the city’s patrol division while streamlining the force’s Criminal Investigations Division.

Young, who will be succeeded Sept. 1 by newly minted police Chief Charles “Chuck” Kimble, said the reorganization efforts will provide more officers to patrol as well as decrease response times and reduce the number of emergency calls per officer on duty.

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Charles Kimble

Charles Kimble

However, the move could have what Young called a “slowing impact” on criminal investigations in the city, with the 20 vacancy cuts limiting the department’s ability to expand over the next fiscal year. With the cuts, the department will still have an additional 12 officer vacancies.

In the fire department, Fire Chief Brian Brank presented a budget to the council that keeps in place the controversial “tiered-overtime reduction plan” that caused resident outcries earlier this year. The plan would save about $390,000 of overtime expenses from the fiscal year 2017 budget and could prevent up to 96 hours of overtime per day.

Despite resident worries, Brank said the move did not alter the department’s service ability or jeopardize its fire safety insurance rating.

“These units (affected by the plan) are still functional, and they can still do the job with this plan in place,” Brank said. “I don’t believe it’s controversial, and it’s fiscally responsible.”

The city will take on part three of the budget presentation at its special workshop Tuesday. The city is expected to present the budgets for the rest of its moneymaking enterprises, including the struggling aviation department and the drainage utility fund.


By the numbers: A glimpse at the community programs and facilities under the knife in Killeen’s 2018 budget

30 — The number of hours of free gym time per week offered at the Killeen Community Center that could be eliminated

$1.65 million — The disapproved cost of building a new Bob Gilmore Senior Center to replace the aging facility

13 — The number of free fitness classes per week offered to Lions Club Family Recreation Center members that are proposed to be cut

$27.6 million — The projected shortfall in 2037 for the city’s operating fund, which pays for public activities centers

117 — The number of registrants in the city’s adult sports program that could be affected by planned cuts

$350,000 — The cost of needed repairs to the pool at the Killeen Aquatics Center

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(11) comments

JKD401

The water park is not that old, now they want 350k for plaster and pump house repairs? Hmmmm something is fishy here.

THUGNIFICENT KILLED ME

Hey, little city that can't say no because they steal your money, time to start cutting your spending.

Close the failed airports, close the waterpark and try to sell it, sell your silly golf course, close the libraries no one uses because we have the internet today, fill all allocated police positions, maintain your FD, then cut all other employment by 50%, privatize your waste collection and water department, and start running your little city that can't say NO.

THUGNIFICENT KILLED ME

I overlooked the new chief of police.

I have nothing agaonst the man, and wish him and our police department well. The men and women who serve the little city that couldn't say NO, are doing the best they can with what little they are given. My God, look at the old clunkers they are forced to drive, claiming to be police cars. The criminal element laughs at the cars the police are forced to drive. Yet, the city building inspectors have new fleets of of very nice trucks.

Oh, little city that couldn't say no, with nowhere to grow.

Chief, i wish you all the best and much success for our police officers.

Sadly, the limited electorate who gave us these leaders, doomed the little city who never said NO, and all who are forced to reside insider her boundaries.

THUGNIFICENT KILLED ME

First I must [censored] myself.

Okay, on to my comments.

Killeen has been on a covert spending spree for a decade.

I suspect it all began innocently enough with the move from Skylark Field to Robert Gray AAF.

as with most drunken binges, other needless, unnecessary spending followed: Waterpark, buying an old church to help your cronies, and with every [happybirthday] spending spree, the peoples' money grew thin.

The city with no self control, allowed "monopoly=like" shacks to be constructed with abandon.

Yet, there was no clamor among the sheeple for such cardboard cut out, crackerbox shacks.

A city manager took his money and ran, followed by sex scandals, alleged thefts, and rotating cast of cronies, supposedly leading the little city without limits.

Bribery, sex abuse, sex scandals, thefts, easy money payouts, little city ripoffs, ousted city council members, and disappearing funds scandals.

A limited (look but not too hard or long) audit was commissioned, and auditors shushed.

The city lacks accountability.

The elected thieves loot the treasure with reckless abandon.

The only thing missing are dead bodies, but I'm certain we'll be learning about the slaughter soon enough.

meanwhile drug abuse, sexual perversions, child abuse, murder, burglary, and thefts are on the increase, along with the exodus of the masses who don't wish to live in war zone, after fighting in one!!!


[ohmy] [scared]

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

@eyewatchingu: First, didn't the chief have a 'unanimous vote' for this Chief of Police'???? As I noted in my opinion to this paper, 'I thought that he was given too much money, about a $45,000 dollar uplift and he had only been his present position of approximately 6 months, and add to that, he was the chief of police of a city that only had a population of I think it was, 13,000. These are the reasons that I was not in favor of this man. I don't care what color he is, only that he can do the job, period. I do not see this man as having the 'necessary ingredients'.

As far as the NAACP goes, I am not in favor of any organization that prescribes to one group over the other. I do not prescribe to the fact that the name of a certain group of people has the notion that 'they can call themselves African American'. I prescribe to the notion that 'we call ourselves Americans, period'. The same holds true of any organization that subscribes hat 'they can circumvent our country by throwing a name in front of Americans'. We are 'Americans, from the United States of America, period'.

I am against any organization, or group of people, who does not accept the premise that any one group of people can buy for themselves a route to be in line for monies that should be going to 'the people', but is not. That includes 'the blueCapeSports' if they are selective in 'who can join'.

I feel there are too many groups with their hands out, entirely too many. You can't read your email, or the solicitations that come in the mail without seeing a multitude of different organizations with their hands out.

Now as to this city, we are tending to do the what must be done 'on a selective basis'. This city and it's city must strive for 'the good of it's citizen's', not any one group. Now the exception that I prescribe to is 'Veterans, The Veterans as whole, especially 'The disabled Veterans that have given their all to this Nation. I don't we can do enough.

This is my opinion that I've stated here.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

texpa1

When will the City Council take responsibility and provide some oversight to the Millions of dollars it provides to the Economic Development Council (EDC) and specifically to the dollars that are consistently allocated to the marketing efforts at the airport? It does not appear that these marketing efforts have produced the desired results over the past several years, but the dollars keep flowing to that activity. One would question why that is? How much are they going to spend chasing the dozen or so people who don't know, or don't care, that we actually have an airport here. Someone should take a closer look at why this continues. Follow the dollars in this area as something does not appear right.

texasgoat

One quick way to meet this short fall.....dump the C of C. What does this outfit give you but an endless supply of Yankee consultants.

VetA42

Killeen City the City without Limits Killeen Texas.
Isn't this how our City Leaders described Killeen.
Regional Airport, great transportation available, wonderful shopping centers, full fledged eateries, great schools at all levels, police and fire departments operating at full coverage throughout the city, full calendar of community services and activities, infrastructure in super condition, development growth unmatched and of course the location to support Fort Hood and it's families.
Is this the City the article is about?
Is this the place "You want to live"?
How is it that Killeen has grown out of it resources? Business pop up, new homes of multiple styles pop up, yet the city suffers a lack of financial backing to accommodate all the growth.
Where has the softball teams gone, where are the dancing nights gone, where has our education system gone.
Mr. Olson you are a scape goat for Killeen's failures. Somewhere in the past 30 odd years our leaders allowed Killeen to grow at the expense of it in place home owners. During this period developers were awarded free reign with filling pockets with money and promises.
The citizen in various districts of Killeen have been duped into believing that Killeen needed all the movement to the south and west but what wasn't in the promise of great City growth was current home owners were to pay for infrastructure that should have been part of the developers costs and budgeting. New schools were required to sustain the growth. Police facilities had to be put into places that left other places unprotected. Vehicle licensing and drivers now have to find the new DPS Station to accomplish required vehicle registration and getting children and themselves properly licensed.
Mr. Olson and City Council (present and past) You have betrayed the trust afforded You by the aged long citizens of Killeen. Now You want to deny use of the facilities paid for by these same older citizen.
When are You going to realize that this City Without Limits is a City without funds and proper management? When?

eyewatchingu

1st cut would be any and all money that is used to hold all black events by the NAACP and the Black Masons cut.
2nd I would stop allowing the all black events in longbranch park that are given free event time OR allowed to rent the parks at a 75% discount.
3 I would not be paying a man that is not deserving of the pay he will recive as police chief!
4th I would stop any and all programs that were only for one race, I would stop handing money to any committee that is not for all members of the community.

So start cutting away, because the only people that are truly benefitting in our community is only the blacks. Using money hat is to be for all of the community.

Stop funding these programs. Plus as long as that chief is in office, I will make sure no more funding will go into the pockets of the police department. I will not sit by and let this Chief milk our city dry while he lets the BLOODS rape kill pimp and murder in our community.
We the good citizens, the home owners deserve a police chief that on his first day wouylkd raid every single BLOODS house and pull them out in the streets and make a public statement that they are to leave our Town.
That is what MRS TEEL would have voted for, Mrs teel would have found a Chief that wasn't afraid to do his job. Plus she would have made sure it wasn't a racist Black man! Good luck whites, to the old white woman out here. Get yourself a big pit bull or other large breed. Get yourself an attack dog if you plan on leaveing your spouses here in Killeen.
You can get him in here and try to hide the crime Mrs Fleming, we all know the truth about you and jones all Black agenda government and we the non racist will put a stop to this racist movement. I as a white person deserve to be represented by an all white group just like you and the countless number of African groups you belong to. RECALL FLEMING IS STARTED find us on facebook.

Dragonus

You sound more like a racist than they do. Instead of hating them and oppressing them further with your white privilege, love them and support them so that they feel more empowered to get out of poverty that white people put them in through continued discrimination and terroristic hate crimes.

If people like you were not committing the crime of bigotry and racial terrorism, then I'm 100% sure that there would be less "Bloods" in the streets.

Sounds like you want to get rid of all the "blacks". WHat's next? Once you eliminate them, you go after Hispanics and then Asians from the middle and far east? Sounds like YOUR ultimate goal is to make Killeen white and racist again.

What you need to understand is that Killeen is a predominantly minority town. Don't like it? Move to Charlottesville with all the other hateful racist terrorists.

Blue Cape Sports

This is why Killeen needs @BlueCapeSports, to supplement the cost of recreational activities for the city through privatization. We won't get there without support and donations from Killeen residents. #BlueCapeSports #indoorsports Tournament ready fields

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