FUNDING FOR TUSCALOOSA PARK AND RECREATION MOVING FORWARD

Tuscaloosa Para

Reported and Written by WVUA 23 Reporter Ashley Harmon

A funding plan is in the works for Tuscaloosa County’s Park and Recreation Authority.

During the Tuscaloosa County Commission’s meeting on April 22, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox discussed the future of fund for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (PARA). As PARA moves forward with projects like Elevate Tuscaloosa, the operational side of the company is being evaluated.

“We’re part business people because we have to generate roughly 44 percent of our own budget, so we have to act as business people to some extent, but we also are in the recreation business,” PARA Executive Director Gary Minor said. “Where things like cutting grass, there’s no money to be gained from that. Those are all expenses, and offering programs that sometimes are not fully funded, so we have to use some of the money we generate here to put forward something there.”

Maddox has been discussing this funding issue with Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Rob Robertson and other staff in recent weeks and has been working on a plan.

“Just looking at changing that model,” Maddox said. “Having the city, potentially the county, operate its own capital side and then contract with PARA on the operations, thus giving PARA the operational freedom and flexibility to be able to really focus solely on the programming side of parks are recreation.”

Minor said that PARA had over 1.5 million individual visits to its centers in the past year, which includes their programs and facilities.

“For the city of Tuscaloosa, we know that parks are going to be key to our future,” Maddox said. “I think there’s a real opportunity with PARA to transform its model to give it the resources it needs to be effective.”

Maddox said the solution to this funding issue for the Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority should be in effect by late summer.

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