Parks and Recreation Deals with Budget Cuts

The economy has lead to cuts across the board for the city of Meridian.

The parks and recreation department is having to reduce its budget by five percent, or about $120,000. This comes as we enter the peak season for outdoor activity.

"We don't want to have to lay people off, but if revenues get worse and worse, we won't hire as many part-timers this year," said Meridian parks and recreation director Mark Naylor.

Naylor says his department plans to save money this summer. With a dwindling budget, he says changes must be made.

The budget for Meridian's Parks and Recreation Department is $2.5 million. Almost half of that goes for maintenance and salaries. Because proper maintenance is a must, Naylor says some cuts are being made elsewhere.

"It'll be a shorter swimming season ,but even that may be extended if we see the increase from some other attractions being closed down for the summer," Naylor said.

Naylor says one of the main attractions that will be closed this summer, that could boost local pool patronage, is Geyser Falls Water Park. The Choctaw tribe has it closed throughout the summer for repairs.

To deal with the funding crunch, Naylor says one swimming class is being eliminated and the public pool facilities will open later than usual.

"MPS (Meridian Public Schools) really doesn't get out until the middle of June. So, our pool really won't open until mid-June to the public," said Naylor. "We'll teach swimming lessons prior to that."

He said it costs almost $70,000 to operate the swimming pools in the park each summer.

"We probably should save maybe $15,000 or so," Naylor said. "Basically, because it will be a tighter season. We're not laying people off. We're not going to have less lifeguards. Hopefully, we'll have just as many and work them in more condensed hours."

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