Feature Article - June 2016
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Parks & Recreation

A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation


The vast majority of parks respondents (95.3 percent) said that they formed partnerships with outside organizations. This compares with 81.4 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common partners for parks were local schools (73 percent of parks respondents partner with them); local government (70.4 percent); nonprofit organizations (57.1 percent); corporate or local businesses (38.4 percent); and state government (36.8 percent). (See figure 43.)


Revenues & Expenditures

Revenues for parks respondents continue to grow more stable over time, with an increasing percentage reporting that their revenues are either increasing or remaining the same year over year. From 2013 to 2014, 44.1 percent of respondents said their revenues had increased, while 11.8 percent reported a decrease. From 2014 to 2015, the percentage reporting a decrease fell to 7.6 percent, while those reporting an increase rose to 47.5 percent. (See Figure 44.)

Looking forward, more than half of parks respondents are expecting revenues to increase in both 2016 (52.6 percent) and 2017 (51.2 percent). At the same time, the number expecting revenues to fall, drops to 5.3 percent in 2016 and 3.3 percent in 2017.

Parks respondents reported a slightly greater drop in their operating expenses from 2014 to 2015 than the average for all respondents. While the average operating expenditure for all respondents fell 2.6 percent in that time period, parks respondents reported a 3.9 percent decrease from $1,980,000 in 2014 to $1,903,000 in 2015.

However, looking forward, parks respondents projected a greater increase in their operating budgets from 2015 to 2017 than the average for all respondents. While the average operating expenditure for all respondents is projected to rise 5.8 percent from 2015 to 2017, parks respondents projected an 8 percent increase, to an average of $2,056,000 in fiscal 2017.

On average, parks respondents report that they recover 45.1 percent of their operating costs via revenue. This compares with 49.6 percent of operating costs recovered via revenue for all respondents. About one-third (33 percent) of parks respondents reported that they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenue. Another 21.1 percent said they earn back 31 to 50 percent of operating costs via revenue. Some 16.4 percent said they earned 51 to 70 percent of their costs via revenue, and 19.9 percent earned between 71 percent and 100 percent of their operating costs.

Respondents from parks were among the most likely to report that they had taken actions to reduce their expenditures. Some 86.3 percent of parks respondents had done so, compared with 81.5 percent of non-parks respondents. The most common actions parks respondents had taken to reduce their operating costs were: increasing energy efficiency (53.7 percent of parks respondents had done so); increasing fees (52.8 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (33.8 percent); reduced staffing levels (29.4 percent); and reduced hours of operation (21.5 percent).