Opinion

Parks task force a big success by doing very little

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the report released last week by the Kitsap Parks and Recreation Sustainability Task Force, since the majority of its findings were couched in the sort of bureaucrat-speak that tends to leave laymen rolling their eyes rather than nodding their heads in approval.

Suffice to say, though, that those who consider parks a vital component of a community’s quality of life and thus worth funding fully must be breathing a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, those who look at the current financial straits in which the county finds itself and wonder why the Parks and Recreation Department seems immune to the kind of budget slashing faced by other departments will probably be grumbling.

In short, there weren’t a lot of cost savings identified by the task force, so if you’re inclined to believe that was the whole point of the exercise, you’d have to conclude the group’s efforts were a failure. If, however, you think its mission was to spare parks programs the budget axe — or at least grant them a stay of execution — you’ll see the task force as a great success.

“You’ve taken on an enormous challenge and performed spectacularly,” gushed Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown, clearly identifying which camp he belongs in. “I’m amazed that you came up with this much in so short a time. Our community is fortunate to have these people who will dedicate themselves to this work. I’m thankful they stepped up to the challenge.”

In only one area did the task force actually identify a program to cut. By eliminating the county’s annual “Holidazzle” celebration at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and expecting the taxpayers to host their own Christmas — oops, make that holiday — parties, the task force discovered it could pare a whopping $20,000 from the county’s annual budget.

At the same time, the task force suggested granting the Parks Department an exemption from the current countywide hiring freeze so the agency can add both a full-time planner and a stewardship coordinator.

“The Parks Department is completely satisified with this report,” Director Chip Faver said. “I’m very pleased with their recommendations.”

Small wonder.

The task force also recommended developing the county’s Events Center as an “enterprise fund” — a euphemism for trying to make the facility pay its own way — which seems like a sensible enough concept in light of the county’s other budget difficulties.

Beyond that, the group’s report was rounded out with suggestions for using a different accounting system, revisiting the department’s mission statement, making its Web site more user-friendly, handing smaller parks off to the cities for them to worry about and, not surprisingly, keeping the task force intact so its members can offer another round of helpful solutions six months or a year from now.

To sum up, the task force neither uncovered ways the Parks Department could save real money, nor did it offer anything other than vague suggestions for generating new revenue to make future cutbacks unnecessary.

In bureaucratic circles, this is what passes for succeeding “spectacularly.”

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