Archive for Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sports study clears funding hurdle

Barred from using capital outlay money, school district dips into general fund

February 28, 2006


A grassroots campaign to commission a study on how best to meet - and finance - the city's ever-increasing recreational needs was given a green light Monday.

The Douglas County Commission agreed to pick up 10 percent of the study's cost, up to $7,000.

And the Lawrence school board renewed its pledge to take on 40 percent of the costs, up to $25,000.

The study is expected to cost between $50,000 and $70,000.

Last week, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce set aside $5,000 for the project; earlier, the Lawrence City Commission agreed match the school board's offer.

"We're thrilled with the outcome," said Bonnie Lowe, a volunteer with Partners for Lawrence Athletics and Youth's efforts (PLAY).

"We're glad to be moving forward," she said.

The school district's support had been in doubt, after Supt. Randy Weseman notified board members late last week that earlier plans to take the money from the district's capital outlay fund had been disallowed.

The capital outlay fund is only for construction, building repairs or architectural drawings, he said. It cannot be used for feasibility studies.

"I thought it was OK, but legal counsel and the auditors were pretty quick in telling us it wasn't," Weseman said, addressing the board Monday.

Instead, he said, the money would have to come out of the district's general fund, which is considerably leaner than the capital outlay fund.

The mix-up gave the board the option of reducing or rescinding its earlier commitment, but members voted to tap the general fund for the full amount, creating the possibility for having to cut $25,000 from other parts of the budget.

Members said they hoped the money would be spent late in the fiscal year or, preferably, added to next year's budget. The district's budget years begin July 1.

"If we can hedge it into next year's budget, we will," Weseman said.

Lowe and other PLAY members have argued that Lawrence's sports facilities have not kept pace with demand. It's been suggested that Lawrence needs a complex similar to Hummer Sports Park in Topeka, which has a stadium and facilities for football, track, baseball, softball, soccer and swimming. It cost $17.5 million.

Whether the sports complex that's proposed for Lawrence will be bigger, smaller or comparable to Hummer Sports Park is not yet known.

Lowe said a PLAY committee is working on a request for proposals (RFP) for conducting the study and coming up with a financial plan. Within a few weeks, the RFP will be presented to the city, county and school officials for approval, after which it will be open to bids.

City, county and school officials' agreeing to fund the study is no guarantee of support for the sports complex.

"When the plan comes back it has to fit with the other priorities we have," County Commissioner Charles Jones said Monday.

Earlier, City Commissioners Mike Amyx and David Schauner voted against the study, saying the city already had more infrastructure needs than it could meet.

- Staff writer Mike Belt contributed to this story.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

$25,000 would have paid for....books, sports fees etc. etc.

Apparently the district has money.

mom_of_three 12 years, 3 months ago

Yes, the district has some money, but schools are never funded enough. This year, when the districts received extra money from the state, the high fees leveled 3-4 years ago were not reduced.
The district evidently plans on using the park, if it is built, so maybe they want to have an input in the planning stages. I am glad the school district is involved. It seems many different sectors of government are involved, as are private citizens. It will make the (much needed) proposed park a success.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 3 months ago

It would nice if Randy and/or members of the board would explain their logic to the public without a request. Taxpayers deserve an explanation. They have put forward a large chunk of money.

Taxpayers have marched in the streets, traveled to Topeka, sent letters and emails all in support of public school funding.

Hawkman 12 years, 3 months ago

I watched the board meeting on television last night and listened to the discussion. I guess if anyone was interested enough they knew it was up for discussion and they could have gone to the meeting or watched it. The opportunity was there but did anyone take if?

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