Parker Town Council announced during a recent meeting it would make a second wave of budget cuts totaling $2 million to the 2018 budget. Among several department cutbacks, the town decided to …
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Parker Town Council announced during a recent meeting it would make a second wave of budget cuts totaling $2 million to the 2018 budget.
Among several department cutbacks, the town decided to eliminate the longstanding holiday tradition of horse carriage rides. The 2018 rides were scheduled to be offered to the public around Thanksgiving of this year.
Elise Penington, the town’s public information officer, said the decision was made in the interest of keeping “the greatest number of events available for the greatest number of people.” Events that generate revenue help offset the costs of other events, though Penington said none of the town events turn a profit.
“We know those events have an impact on that hometown feel in Parker and we made that decision to keep the ones that served the broader public,” she said.
Residents expressed mixed feelings about the town’s decision. In response, the town provided a list of answers on its website, parkeronline.org.
In the post, the town explained the decision to cut the program was made to “provide our community with free and low-cost events, while balancing necessary budget reductions.”
According to the town’s website, canceling the carriage rides saved about $18,000 from the 2018 budget. With sponsorship, the town absorbed about $11,000 for the cost of the rides in 2017.
According to the town’s budget message, the town expected to have to adjust the budget in response to a decline in the growth rate of sales tax revenue when planning for the 2018 budget. Since then, the town has cut the budget twice, once in May and once in July.
Penington said the town tried to offset costs of some of these events already. At this year’s Stars and Stripes event, a VIP section was available for a paid ticket and the price for parking passes was doubled in response to the initial budget cuts made in May.
The town estimated it would need to charge $10 per ticket to offset the cost of the carriage rides, plus an additional $2.50 fee for the ticket vendor. Fearing it would price families out of the event, the town decided to cut the program altogether.
Penington said the carriage rides cost the town about $5.86 per rider, making it the most expensive event the town puts on. Penington said the other events cost between $1.06 and $3.06 per patron.
Originally, the Downtown Business Alliance hosted the rides, then the Parker Chamber of Commerce took over the event. The town officially began hosting the event in 2013. Penington said the option is still open for one of those organizations to take on the carriage rides again.
The town is also entertaining outside vendors to organize the popular community event for the future. Some vendors have expressed interest so far, but no serious offers have been made.
The carriage rides were typically offered during special events around Thanksgiving. The rides took about 30 minutes and gave guests a tour of Parker’s Historic District, from Discovery Park and the Douglas County Public Library to O’Brien Park just to the west. According to the website OurParkerColorado.com, a Parker events blog, this year’s rides were expected to offer larger vehicles and an additional vehicle with longer hours.
Penington did not rule out the possibility of the rides returning at some point.
“I wouldn’t say that we would never do it again, but the departments have made a lot of different cuts, so it depends on what our budget looks like in different years,” Penington said. “If one of those organizations was interested in taking it on, we would love for the tradition to continue, and if there was another organization to take on that cost we would love for that to happen and we would provide any information to help with that.”
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