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Recreation board reallocates funding

NATCHEZ — Clarence Bowlin isn’t very happy about things concerning recreation right now.

The former Natchez Dixie Youth baseball program president is already upset that the city has yet to build a recreation facility. Now, news that the city’s recreation board is making cuts to local youth programs has Bowlin upset.

Every year the Dixie Youth League, T.M. Jennings League, the Natchez Soccer League and the Natchez Girls Softball League get a certain amount of money from the board. Bowlin said he’s been told he will not be receiving the same amount of money this year than in years past.

“I don’t know the amount of the cut, but this is terrible. They’ve been giving the same amount to the leagues for all these years, and costs have gone up every year,” Bowlin said.

“Expenses in running a program are more than they used to be, and travel is up too, and all of a sudden, they’re doing this for no reason?”

But according to David Carter, president of the recreation board, there’s a very good reason for the cuts.

“A third of our budget was going out (to these leagues), and we have some places we wanted to update, so we took that money and put it into those projects,” Carter said.

Carter listed improvements made to Liberty, Providence, the Pine Mount, Kingston and Broadmoor parks as examples of what the money would be going toward instead.

“The cuts aren’t very major. Depending on the program, anywhere from $500 to $2,000 is getting cut, and that’s all across the board. No program is getting singled out,” Carter said.

Eric Fry, league director for T.M. Jennings baseball, said he wasn’t at liberty to disclose the amount of money the league would be losing.

“I can’t elaborate, but I do want to say that the recreation board has done a lot for us, and I appreciate what they’ve done,” Fry said.

By the same token, Fry said the cuts were poorly timed for his league.

“Out of all the times for us to get a cut, this is a bad time, because our teams have advanced to the state tournament. We can use (the funds) this year more than ever,” Fry said.

As for the Dixie Youth league, Bowlin said it would have to make due with less money from the recreation board.

“The league will have to absorb it, but I’m not exactly sure how they will at this time,” Bowlin said.

Carter insisted, however, that the board was not trying to take funds away from the children who participate in the local recreational leagues.

“Nobody wants to cut back, but everything has tightened up right now, and we’re just trying to be responsible with the budget. Our other option would be to raise taxes, and we don’t want to do that,” Carter said.

“We’re not taking away from the kids, we’re just reinvesting more into local facilities.”

When it comes to facilities, though, Bowlin said he’s still wondering when there will be an update on plans for a new recreational complex.

“I haven’t heard anything about that since the elections (last November). I know (approximately) 70 percent of voters were in favor of it, and to my knowledge nothing more has happened,” Bowlin said.

“My thing is, build something. Build new soccer fields, new adult softball fields… just build something.”

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