Some Parks and Rec programs may have been overpriced

Delayed advertising and higher prices may have hurt participation in some parks and recreation programs this year, a county staffer told the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission last week.

At the commission’s Sept. 2 meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Golden said the department was two months into the fiscal 2011 budget, and he’d asked some staff members to update the panel on how revenues were beginning to shape up.

Assistant Director Phil Innis said he could give a preliminary report from a programmatic standpoint.

“If you remember, we were right up to the end of April before we really knew how much stuff we were going to get back,” Innis said.

When the fiscal 2011 budget was originally proposed, the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget was set to be cut by about $1.9 million. Ultimately, an additional $739,000 in funding was recommended for the department. Several fees were increased and a $5 user fee for youth sports participants was implemented.

The delay impacted the department’s ability to advertise programs, Innis said last week, and they think that impacted the number of people who signed up for programs.

“We also found in certain programs in certain parts of the county that I think we overpriced some of our services,” he said. It’s something the department has to consider, he said.

In some areas, the department planned and advertised events, and then did extra advertising when people weren’t signing up. The word was the community members couldn’t do it, he said. With the increase in fees but the reduction of the number of people in the programs, the revenue numbers are still about the same, he said.

“If the [budget] process is hurting participation, then there’s something wrong with the process,” Midlothian District Member Lisa Quigley said.

“We need to look at that next year to see if we’re pricing ourselves out of the business,” Commission Chairman Ron Maxey said. Golden said some of it becomes offering different programs in different parts of the county.

Innes said he hoped that by next month the staff would have a report to show the panel the numbers.

From a maintenance standpoint, said Mark Askin, chief of parks, “we’re holding our own.” The department has had some problems keeping up with the mowing schedules, especially when it rains, he said. Crews are “stretched to the max,” he said.

“We’re hanging in there, but it’s not easy,” he said. “We’re feeling the pinch.”


The "Big New Deal" on Adult Sports

Having private companies run our county's Adult Sports Programs such as softball and soccer just hammers the participants with higher prices for leagues that give you fewer games. Explain to me why the county Parks & Recreation program has to be a vehicle for private interest to make a profit? I go to other localities throughout the Southeast of the US and (like Chesterfield used to be) they don't need to involve private companies. Forcing people to join your sports club as well as pay for "renting" a field your tax money has already paid to be built is a little confusing to me. Can someone at the County, your paper or one of those private sports groups explain to me why I pay twice for a field that I have already paid for over 15 years ago?
People in the county just want a place to have a little recreation, have fun and not worry that the cost will be so high they can't afford it. Many low income families count on County services and these private companies shouldn't feel a need to make a profit from them. Shame on the County for rolling over on this and shame on the profit mongers taking advantage of the situation. So much for being a "First Choice" community.

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