Maintaining parks and recreation services
In addition to cutting back on programs and services, Chesterfield County’s parks and recreation department found creative ways to make the most of its resources. For example, because its budget for equipment replacement dropped from $250,000 per year to $80,000, department mechanics have been “rebuilding existing equipment rather than replacing it,” Askin says. “For many of our mowers, for instance, we’ve kept the tractor part and just replaced the mower deck around it.”
While Elizabeth City’s department first looked at adding equipment and staff to meet increased demands from a newly merged department, “it proved way too costly,” Simpson says. Instead, parks officials purchased larger equipment that was better suited for the jobs they need to complete. Although the initial cost of the equipment was much higher than what the budget could normally endure, the equipment’s high productivity and the resulting reduction in manpower made it possible for staff to continue to maintain facilities even with new facilities coming online.
“It comes down to getting the right equipment for the job,” Simpson says. “That may mean considering buying re-conditioned equipment instead of buying new, especially if a department needs to purchase several large, expensive pieces of equipment.” His department has opted for used equipment several times to get everything they needed, and they have been pleased with the results.
Simpson also has deferred adding new employees to save money. “Technology and new specialized equipment are proving the way for us to go to keep up with all of the added tasks and reductions in operating expenses,” he says.
Chesterfield County’s parks department also uses free labor. For instance, the county sheriff’s office has an inmate workforce program, which aids in cleaning up highways, historical sites, fairgrounds and parks. The department also frequently uses volunteers to help with maintenance projects. “A lot of churches want to do volunteer projects, such as cleanups at schools,” Askin says. “Many of them know that the county has had budget cuts, and they just want to help out. We’ve had up to 300 volunteers on one weekend throughout the county.”