BREC commissioner’s contract likely to get renewed

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Carolyn McKnight-Bray, BREC superintendent.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Carolyn McKnight-Bray, BREC superintendent.

The board that oversees East Baton Rouge Parish’s park system is expected to extend BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight’s contract at a meeting later this month.

Since she took on the role in January 2012, McKnight has been paid $150,000 a year, an auto allowance, health insurance benefits and 100 hours of paid annual leave.

East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission Chairman Kenneth Riche said at the board’s most recent meeting that commissioners will go into closed session Jan. 23 to finalize the specifics of McKnight’s new contract.

He added he had been hammering out some of the finer points with McKnight in recent weeks.

“I think we’re both happy with it,” Riche said.

McKnight previously spent 24 years working in administrative positions in the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department and served in administrative roles for the city of Dallas.

McKnight said this week she’s happy in her job at BREC and has recently bought a home in Baton Rouge. Her new contract will run for two years, she said.

“I’ve been having a ball,” she said. “It’s been a huge blessing to be here.”

McKnight, 57, took over as parks superintendent following the retirement of longtime administrator Bill Palmer, who worked for the parks system for 33 years.

During McKnight’s two-year tenure, BREC has been wrapping up its 10-year Imagine Your Parks plan that has led to a $70.5 million overhaul of the park’s system, funded by a dedicated 20-year tax approved by voters in 2004.

This week, McKnight announced the kickoff of preparations for Imagine Your Parks 2: Better Parks, Better Living — a strategic plan that will oversee the parks’ progress through 2024. Over the next three months, BREC will hold community meetings to gather input on the coming decade of parks’ offerings.

McKnight said she has tried to focus on more opportunities for parks programs to generate revenue outside of the agency’s dedicated property tax funding stream.

“People complain about fees going up, but we have to continue to maintain those facilities and services,” she said. “We try to keep it within reason.”

McKnight also has overseen several efficiency efforts, including reduced fuel use that saved an estimated $50,000 and waste reductions that led to an estimated $150,000 decrease in landfill costs.

“Our commissioners challenged us to be more efficient in the way we provide services, and we have done that,” she said.

In April, voters will decide whether to renew 6.2 mills in property taxes for BREC, which would generate an estimated $22.9 million to pay for capital improvements and general operating expenses.