Tuesday will be an important day for Harvey County, one that sets the stage for the future of the parks system.
That day is when those dedicated to collecting signatures for a petition to ask for a public vote on the possible sale of Camp Hawk will be turning in their forms. Organizers will then start checking voter rolls against signatures and start counting how many there are. If they have more than about 420 registered voters on those petitions, a public vote will be in order.
They are not the only group that needs to get their i's dotted and t's crossed. The county needs to iron out a few details with the ballot question before it moves forward. It was learned this week that the county can only ask voters about selling the park. If a tax increase is to be requested of voters, that will be a separate question. That is as it should be. Voters should decide about the asset they, in essence, own. If a tax collection designated for the parks system should be created is a different question — and if the county asks for a mill levy increase, can that set of mills be designated for parks and parks only?
How to financially support the parks system is a huge question — and the real issue at hand here. This newspaper reported the financial losses of not only the entire parks system, but each individual park, according to numbers generated by the county budget administrators. It is clear after reviewing those that there is a long term, big issue question at hand with the parks — supporting them financially. That is bigger than any one facility, but about all of them. Selling one of them off feels a little short-sighted to us, and we believe only a band-aid being applied to a sprained ankle. It might look like something is being done to hold things together, but it does not treat the real problem.
The parks advisory board is discussing the creation of a fee structure — for all three parks. Again, this is an important discussion that should be done in a thorough fashion. One issue we see, and to us it is a big one, is where those fees will be accounted for. Will they be sequestered in a fund strictly for use by the parks system, or like so many other budget items of the county, dumped into the general fund?
Thanks to the calendar, we have roughly 10 months to start answering these important questions. Let's get started.
— Kansan Editorial Board