Councilman: Dooley messing with county parks so he can ask for tax hike -

Councilman: Dooley messing with county parks so he can ask for tax hike

ST. LOUIS, Mo ( -- A budget crisis is looming for St. Louis County Parks and Recreation after County Executive Charlie Dooley changed its funding. 

The department is facing a $500,000 shortfall for 2013 which will mean layoffs or cuts in salaries and equipment. After the Parks Department reserves are used up, the deficit could be millions of dollars. 

County Councilman Greg Quinn is accusing Dooley of manufacturing a crisis to ask for a tax increase. Dooley’s office says that’s nonsense.

The parks department will no longer receive money from the general fund.  Instead it will rely solely on $18.5 Million in revenues and taxes set up specifically for the parks. A spokesman for Dooley says the Parks Department has been receiving less and less money from the general fund for years. 

Parks Director Tom Ott says they have been operating on a new business plan that has saved them $500,000. But with the new funding plan he projects a $500,000 shortfall for 2013. Ott stressed that there is no talk of closing parks at this time.

“What (Dooley) is doing is just eliminating a major source of funding that has literally been used decades for parks,” said Quinn. In his 20 years on the County Council Quinn says the parks department has always received money from the general fund. “Then he’ll be able to go to the people and say we have a deficit in the parks department and therefore we need a tax increase.”

Dooley asked for a property tax increase last year but didn’t get it. He has not asked for a tax increase in 2012. 

Ott says his department will make do with whatever funding they are given.  He points to Prop-P as a potential way to make up the gap. Prop-P is a sales tax increase that would be used for the Arch grounds and county parks. That tax has several steps left before it would go on the ballot.

Dooley’s spokesman says they don’t have a stance on Prop-P and are not actively campaigning for it.

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