The Cobb County parks department has prepared a plan to close several parks and recreational facilities as the county faces a minimum $30 million hole in its budget.
This comes after commissioners voted to issue $27.4 million in bonds to buy more parkland, and approved new user fees for parks and senior centers.
All departments were asked to come up with potential savings at a budget retreat last fall. The savings plan for the parks department has not been officially presented to commissioners, who are scheduled to meet June 12 to discuss the budget and millage rate.
The county will either have to raise taxes or cut services in order to close the budget gap.
According to the draft document, closing Lost Mountain Park in West Cobb, Fullers Park in East Cobb, Mountain View Aquatic Center, Art Place Mountain View, the Mountain View Community Center, the South Cobb Recreation Center, the South Cobb Aquatics Center, and Keep Cobb Beautiful would save the county about $3.4 million.
A similar plan to shave the library system’s budget could close or consolidate up to eight libraries.
Chairman Mike Boyce, who has called for raising taxes, was not available for comment. Previously, he has said that anything other than mandated services like public safety is on the table for cuts.
Commissioner Bob Ott said he would not support closing the facilities outlined in the parks department plan, emphasizing that it was part of a comprehensive report about operating costs.
Ott suggested cutting services at animal control and the Safety Village, consolidating libraries, and reexamining vehicle replacement instead. He acknowledged that those savings would not be enough to close the gap, however.
“My list is not perfect or sacrosanct but if you go from a list of cuts and you say, ‘I can’t live without that,’ then you’re going in with eyes wide open about what it costs to keep that service,” Ott said.
In addition to the $30 million budget gap this year, the county has identified another $25 million in needs to be addressed within the next three to five years.
Two leading rating agencies recently downgraded the county’s outlook to “negative” citing Cobb’s “fiscal challenges.”