Last night for Halloween fun?

There’s no denying events like the Halloween Family Fun Night at Givens Community Center are popular.

Well before the doors were scheduled to open Wednesday night, a crowd of children and adults had already lined-up to go inside and were barely able to stand still while waiting.

And that was before the candy was handed out.

However, there’s also no denying that free events like these cost money to organize and host each year. And with Kitsap County administrators forced to cut millions of dollars from their next budget, such regional celebrations might have to end if more community partners are not found to help pay for them.

“We need to find those folks that are willing to help sponsor these programs,” said Chip Faver, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, explaining that such city-specific events that are often duplicated by other organizations are exactly the type of activities his staff needs to evaluate to determine if they should continue.

“We are currently looking at repositioning the parks department and looking at several programs like these,” Faver said Thursday, a day after the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Sustainability Task Force presented a list of nine recommendations for improving the financial health of the department to the Board of Commissioners.

And while the Halloween Family Fun Night was not specifically recommended for suspension like the annual Holidazzle celebration, which costs the county about $25,000, Faver said the free event definitely falls under the category of programs discussed in the task force’s sixth recommendation.

“As the county becomes more urbanized, cities, schools and churches are offering a host of recreational programs that duplicate county programs (and) the county should shift from being a direct recreation program provider to a regional coordinator, contractor or facilitator,” the task force’s recommendation reads.

“We need to look at these events and determine what are we buying? How many people attend? How much sponsorship is there?” Faver said, explaining that the ultimate goal is “find an outlet to have these events without costing the taxpayers as much money.”

As an example, Faver pointed to another Halloween event sponsored by the county — the Haunted Fairgrounds, which he said is attended by thousands of people and also brings in money to the county and surrounding businesses.

“We can start calling that a region-wide event that brings us bang for our buck,” he said, explaining that people come from throughout the county and even across Puget Sound to attend that event, spending money on the ferries, restaurants and other businesses along the way.

“We need to start operating like a business,” Faver said, explaining that such hard choices are needed to keep the county’s parks open and accessible to all. “If we start charging for people to use our parks, that immediately starts limiting the access for a number of users. So we need to look at other ways of cutting costs and paring down.”

Faver said his department was scheduled to present its budget to the board of commissioners yesterday just two days after the task force presented its recommendations. And while he could not speak to the future of specific programs such as the Halloween Fun Night, he said “We have our comprehensive list of the services we could cut, and we will be seeking permission to move forward and make decisions based on department policy.”

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