Feature Article - June 2010
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A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


When it comes to budgets for parks and recreation, the news was mixed, as might be expected in such volatile economic times. From 2008 to 2009, more respondents this year said they brought in more revenue, compared with what last year's respondents were expecting. Last year, 39.8 percent of respondents were projecting higher revenues in 2009 over 2008, compared with 44.4 percent this year who said they actually saw increased revenues. But, at the same time, more respondents this year also saw a decrease in revenues. Last year, 19.3 percent said they were expecting revenues to drop in 2009, and this year, 24.3 percent reported such a drop. Fewer respondents this year are expecting to see an increase in revenues in 2010 or in 2011, when 36.6 percent and 38.3 percent, respectively, are projecting an increase. (See Figure 42.)

Some of the greater-than-expected drop in revenues in 2009 might be explained by a corresponding greater-than-expected drop in the number of people using parks and recreation respondents' facilities. While just 8 percent of last year's respondents projected a decrease in the number of participants in 2009, this year, 13.5 percent reported such a decrease. That said, more than half of respondents (55 percent) reported an increase, and more than half expect to see increasing participation in 2010 (52.8 percent) and 2011 (53.3 percent). (See Figure 43.)

Despite the projected increase in usage of their facilities in 2010, parks respondents were expecting a 7 percent drop to their operating budgets in the same time period. Anecdotally, many reported that these budget cuts, which largely affect staffing levels, service levels and the ability to keep up with regular maintenance schedules, could have a negative impact on their ability to continue providing the same level of service that their patrons expect. Following the steeper 7 percent drop expected in fiscal 2010, parks respondents were projecting a very slight increase to operating budgets in 2011—with an increase of 0.2 percent to $2,087,000.

Respondents from parks and recreation agencies were more likely than other respondents to be taking every action to reduce costs that we reported on, other than improving energy efficiency. That said, nearly six in 10 (58.8 percent) were taking measures to improve energy efficiency in order to cut costs. More than half also said they were reducing staff levels (55.2 percent) and increasing fees (54 percent). Perhaps because they have more flexibility to be able to adopt such measures, parks respondents were much more likely than others to report that they had cut programs and services (39.3 percent), cut their hours of operation (35.9 percent), or shortened their season (22.8 percent). More than one in 10 (13.4 percent) said they had closed facilities in order to reduce costs.