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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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