Splitting the bill may be the best way to support local recreation
How do elected officials determine which operations are easiest to downsize -- or more importantly, which facilities are most important to the general public? It's a combination of economics, common sense and politics.
For instance, in the last year, cities and towns around the U.S. have had to close pools and parks, outsource field maintenance, and privatize management operations. Unquestionably, an entire municipality benefits from quality parks and recreation. But at what cost to the general taxpayer? Is there enough value that an entire town should be taxed for creation and access to those services? Specifically, when about it comes to the maintenance and operations required for allowing team play (baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, tennis, etc.), can the case be made that user fees should make up the majority of the budget?
When I lived in Montgomery County, Md., even public pools required daily fees or an annual membership for use. As a result, the facilities were in great shape and used frequently. That is an example of a public/citizen partnership between the community and its government. In contrast with an entirely free service (like a library), which ultimately will jeopardize its functionality in times of recession, the public/citizen model is much more sustainable.