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Pasco to consider parks fees to fill budget hole

Faced with property tax losses, county officials are proposing sweeping increases for 58 types of recreation facility and program fees, their first round of hikes in 15 years.

County commissioners today will consider the increases, including:

• Daily admission to a swimming pool would go up from $1.75 a day to $3 a day for adults. Swimming lessons would cost $35 a session instead of the current $20.

• Camping would cost $30 a night for a large cabin instead of $15 a night now. Camping in a tent would cost $10 a night instead of $5.

• Renting a picnic shelter would go up from $20 to $25 (or $30 for one with electrical outlets).

• An adult softball team would pay $375 to register, up from $300. Adult basketball teams would pay $300, up from $250. There would be variety of extra fees for field services like raking, re-striping and lighting.

• The cost of registration in a basketball youth league would go up from $25 a player to $35 a player. Registration in youth flag football would go from $30 to $35 a player, and in youth volleyball from $15 to $25 a player.

• Fees for summer day camps would go up, too, from $30 a week to $50 a week ($60 if it includes a field trip).

These increases are expected to generate $400,000, partially offsetting revenues lost to Amendment 1, a state referendum voters passed in January that cuts about $16-million in property taxes from the county budget.

County officials are still considering staff cuts on top of these fee increases.

"For virtually every program, we're seeing how we can refine and reduce costs, maintain the program or do without it," said Dan Johnson, assistant county administrator for public services.

Pasco's recreation facility staffing depends on property taxes.

"The reality is that people don't realize that they benefit from certain services, and they don't want to pay for it," said Johnson. "People who don't use libraries will say, 'Cut libraries, don't cut parks.' People who don't use swimming pools will say, 'Don't cut libraries, cut swimming pools.' "

Johnson said the fee hikes shift the burden for these services to those who actually use the facilities. "User fees are not the same as taxes, regardless what people think," he said.

Pasco is also playing catchup.

The fees have not been raised since the schedule was first adopted by the County Commission in 1993, said Rick Buckman, the county's parks and recreation director.

"We've subsidized for a long, long time, which is a good thing," Buckman said.

Officials are thinking of other ways to refine the system. "We are looking at imposing different fees for resident and non-resident," Johnson said.

Today, officials are proposing to charge residents a $5 fee for an annual recreation photo identification card to use at the county's three gymnasiums; nonresidents will be charged $15 for the same card.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached

at cyap@sptimes.com

or (813)909-4613.

Pasco to consider parks fees to fill budget hole 03/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 9:10pm]
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