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Parks expenses, revenue expected to rise
Board considers five-year plan
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Forsyth County News

 

In response to Forsyth County commission requests, the parks and recreation board on Wednesday reviewed a plan for financing the department over the next five years.

The outlook on budgeting goes with the approval of a five-year master plan for recreation.

Both expenses and revenues are expected to rise if the system grows according to the plan, consultant Bob Betz said.

“In the next five years, operating expenses are going to increase by 30 percent,” Betz said. “The reason they’re going up is because there’s more facilities and you have a lot more upkeep.”

Revenue will also grow with the expansion of the system, keeping about the same percentage returned.

In the past five years, revenue has covered about 27 percent of operating expenses. It’s expected to cover 28 percent during the next five years.

“That’s a good number,” Betz said. “It sounds low, but most communities don’t approach 20 percent.”

To maintain that percentage, the department could raise fees for programs or athletics by about 10 percent each year from 2013 until capping it in 2017, he said.

To maintain participation levels, Betz added that the system needs to keep fees competitive with those in neighboring cities and counties.

He also provided some information on the potential to privatize services or facilities and a look at the economic impact, which commissioners requested.

The department privatizes some services, such as grass cutting, he said, which Betz recommends for routine maintenance.

The privatization of assets needs to be carefully reviewed, he said, but some planned amenities, such as the zip lines at Sawnee Mountain or the equestrian venue, could be candidates.

Aside from revenue, Betz noted that parks facilities and activities benefit the local economy as residents and visitors buy gas, eat at restaurants or stay at hotels.

A community needs to determine how to best receive the financial impact of its recreation, he said.

“If you raise revenues by increasing user fees, it’s going to decrease the impact to the local economy,” Betz said. “You really have to balance this.”

The parks board asked for some comparisons of Forsyth’s percentage in revenue versus operating costs to neighboring communities prior to a presentation before the commission.

The commission will discuss approval of the master plan and the finances appendix during a work session Tuesday.

Department director Jerry Kinsey said the county will monitor the current climate over the years, using the plan as a guideline.

“All this is a road map or a plan,” Kinsey said. “It doesn’t mean this is going to be adopted or this is what’s going to happen.”