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Taft Parks District is facing funding, staffing shortages at community facilities

With an oil industry downturn threatening funding for Taft's Parks and Recreation District facility staffing, District Administrator Les Clark says they're looking for ways to keep the lights on.
Posted: 6:31 PM, Sep 13, 2023
Updated: 2023-09-14 11:41:44-04
taft park

TAFT, Calif. (KERO) — The Westside Recreation and Park District in Taft is doing a lot with very little, running multiple facilities with not much funding. From a gymnasium to a bowling alley, lots of places in Taft are open due to the hard work of community members. Now, due to a recent drop in property tax revenue generated by oil companies, the district is growing concerned about staffing shortages.

District Administrator Les Clark says the facilities are growth-oriented and offer more than just places to exercise.

"It's education. It's enrichment," said Clark. "After-school enrichment programs, which we provide, and also jobs for these young people. And also second jobs for people that need the extra income. We have single moms, we have parents that maybe they're saving up for a trip or they have a kid that's going to college. Maybe they need an extra job to pay that last bill and they're able to work here. There's so much value in that."

With the downturn in the oil industry, it's been harder for organizations like the Rec and Parks District to keep all their facilities open. Clark says the rec center has been serving Taft for 75 years and he'd like to see it open for 75 more, adding that there's worth in what they offer, not only to the people of Taft, but Kern County as a whole.

"If we wanna continue to do the things, we're gonna have to have people to understand that this is a valuable partnership and that the rec district is valuable for Taft's sustainability, and the positivity and the growth for the future," said Clark.


Parks and recreation programs within California's cities can get funding that isn't reliant on businesses or industries like oil being in their community. The state has several options for grants, bonds, and general tax revenue allocations.

Allocations from a city or county's general fund are the main way city service districts acquire funding, although this option is dependent on what the city or county's budget will bear.

There are also several obligation bonds that allow local governments to borrow money. General obligation bonds rely on an investor who will trust that a city will repay the debt through residential tax revenues. The city can also use the revenue from a bond to fund parks and then repay the bond fund with tax revenues as well.

Finally, there are direct sales tax increases, usually passed through a public vote, and this revenue can be used to help increase funding for parks and recreational centers. The issue with using sales taxes to fund city programs is that it puts an additional cost of living burden on lower-income residents and families.

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