Feature Article - June 2007
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Building Active, Involved Communities

Parks and recreation departments surveyed reported 15.1 percent higher operating budgets for fiscal 2006 than the average respondent. This category's average spending on operations for 2006 was $1.36 million. This could reflect the fact that many parks and recreation departments—particularly those in urban and suburban areas—tend to operate multiple facilities, from traditional parks with playgrounds and picnic areas to community recreation centers with fitness spaces and gymnasiums. That said, their operating expenditures are projected to increase at a slower-than-average rate between now and 2008—just 7.8 percent, compared to 8.2 percent for the general survey population. By 2008, operating expenditures among parks and recreation departments were projected at $1.47 million, just 14.7 percent higher than average. (See Figure 36.)

Respondents from parks and recreation departments expect minimal changes in the number of paid employees staffing their facilities between now and 2008, with just minor increases in full-time and part-time staff, and a slight decrease in the number of seasonal workers. However, a substantial increase—58.6 percent—was projected for the number of volunteers working for parks and recreation facilities, from an average of 92.5 volunteers currently employed to nearly 147 projected for 2008.

More than 50 percent of parks and recreation respondents said staffing was one of their top current concerns, and more than 40 percent felt it would still be a concern in three years. Some of these respondents may be seeking to deal with staffing issues by turning to volunteers to staff parts of their facilities—a tactic that presents unique challenges of its own.

Several respondents cited an increase in the number of facilities they run and the number of programs they provide, without coincident increases in staffing levels. The only way to deal with this problem may be by relying on volunteers.

Respondents from parks and recreation departments were slightly more likely than the average respondent to require certifications of their staff members. The most common certifications among parks and recreation departments were lifeguard certifications, aquatics management and pool management certifications, and playground safety certifications—all three of which were required by more than half of all parks and recreation respondents. Nearly 30 percent also require coaching certifications or personal training certifications.