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Feature Article - August 2014

Solutions for Your Budget

Partnerships, Cutbacks Help Manage Budget Difficulties

By Deborah L. Vence


Parks and recreation departments have had to tighten their belts over the past several years in order to better manage their budgets, which were adversely affected by the economic recession. Partnering with other organizations, making necessary cuts and developing smart marketing strategies to entice prospective members are a few ways that facilities have been tackling their budget difficulties head on.

"Budget funding is a composite of good customer service and managerial credibility. Departments need to know what it costs to provide a service whether or not it is subsidized. That will enhance credibility because you can make cost-effective decisions," said Bill Beckner, senior research manager for the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

And, "departments also need to improve their customer service, not just to those who use the facilities, but to those who don't," he said.

In this issue of Recreation Management, industry experts discussed the ways that recreation facilities are addressing budget difficulties, and made suggestions on strategies that facilities can adopt to help deal with budget problems.

Identifying the Problem

Prior to implementing any solution, you first must pinpoint exactly what's causing the problem, experts say.

"You need to focus on, what is the problem? Is it the budget? Is it that you need more operating money? Maybe the pricing structure is wrong or the cost recovery model is not defined. If an agency does not have sound business management practices already in place, a new facility will not solve that problem," said Tom O'Rourke, executive director of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission in Charleston, S.C., who operates three waterparks.

"I also think that an amazing programming division could be much more valuable to your community than a new facility. So, you must first start with need. What are your citizens asking you to deliver? What do they want to do? The entire premise of our existence is doing what the public wants us to do," he added.

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