In his proposed budget, Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory has proposed closing four recreation centers and laying off 37 people in the Parks and Recreation Department.
These recommendations would slash Lafayette's per-person recreation funding to only $15, which does not favorably compare to national averages or even spending closer to home.
As basis for these recommendations, Guillory says that the LCG general fund is "subsidizing" one of its own departments by funding it. The word "subsidy" appears over and over in the public records we receive; the implication being that city government's funding of recreational facilities for city residents is a "subsidy," and that any cost the city pays for residents' access to recreation opportunities in their neighborhoods is a "loss."
KATC Investigates looked at the numbers, and compared Lafayette's funding levels to other parishes and cities. We also looked at the expenses and revenues for each recreation center in the parish.
In Lafayette, the annual budget last year for the department was $7 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year. That budget consists of $2.8 million raised by the 10 mills of property tax in the city, as well as $3.4 million from the city general fund and $374,000 from the parish general found, and another $580,000 of income generated by rentals and fees of the department's programs and facilities.
With that $7 million, the department runs and maintains 35 parks, 10 recreation centers and three golf courses; included in the facilities are ballparks, swimming pools, tennis courts and basketball courts.
The population of Lafayette is about 126,143 and the population of the parish, including all municipalities, is 244,390. That means that Lafayette's total funding for LCG-owned recreation is about $29 per person.
Guillory's proposed budget cuts that budget by half, meaning he's proposing funding at approximately $15 per person. His proposal would also bring the parish contribution to zero, since the millage is only collected in the city of Lafayette.
The East Baton Rouge Parish recreation and parks agency, known as BREC, also is funded by property taxes. The millage there is 14.463 mills, which generates about $62 million annually. The population of EBR is about 440,059, meaning recreation gets funding of about $140 per person.
Closer to home, Youngsville residents approved a one-cent sales tax to build and operate their sports complex. The sales tax brings in about $2 million a year, which, using the city's population of about 14,077, comes out to funding of about $142 per person.
A study by the National Parks and Recreation Association last year found that typical local government expenses for parks and recreation is $82 per person. Smaller governments tend to spend more, the study found: those with populations of fewer than 20,000 people have a median operating expense of $96.77 per person, while larger ones (more than 250,000) spend about $52 on average per person.
To read that whole study, click here.
KATC Investigates has made numerous public records requests to LCG regarding the recreation department.
The four recreation centers targeted by Guillory for closure - Domingue, Heymann, J. Carton James and George Bowles - are the four centers that cost the least to operate. According to the figures provided by LCG in response to one of those public records requests, the combined "subsidy" or "loss" for the four centers is $48,938.60 annually.
The Current did a similar story this week; to read their analysis of the numbers click here.
Based on the public records provided to KATC Investigates, here are the revenue and expense figures for each of the parish's recreation centers, as well as the number of rentals/events for each center, and additional uses for each center. The total personnel cost for all 10 centers combined is $1,167,223.56, the records indicate.
*It should be noted that the highest ticket item in each center's expenses is utility payments, which means payments to LUS - which is owned by Lafayette.
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $40,188.33 (66 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 36, as well as elections, CSA (organized youth sports programs), LRPD.
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $31,339 (66 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 39, as well as BPA (Brown Park operations, where the center is located), LRPD.
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $35,018.73 (72 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 38, as well as LRPD, including therapeutic recreation
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $33,523.67 (60 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 46, as well as elections, LPRD, Meals on Wheels, Community Meetings
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $57,544.80 (68 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 66, as well as SLYSI (organized youth sports programs) LPRD and community meetings
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $44,359.82 (71 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 18, as well as LPRD, elections, tennis courts and community meetings.
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $21,050.78 (77 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 6, as well as LPRD athletics and elections
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $6,993.95 (27 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 58
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $11,671.81 (82 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 10
Net expenses not covered by revenue: $9,222.06 (75 percent)
Rentals/Events annually: 3, in addition to New Hope Tutoring
To compare what BREC offers to citizens and what Lafayette's department offers, check out these annual reports from the agencies.
BREC's most recent annual report is here.
We've requested the most recent reports from LCG, but here's the most recent one we could find online, which is from 2017:
KATC Investigates did a little digging national views on parks and rec.
The National Parks and Recreation Association did a survey to ask Americans how they feel about parks and recreation. The results found that most Americans support the role of parks and recreation in society and they support politicians who support them.
That survey, done by the NPRA in 2018, found that:
- 3 in 4 Americans say they live within walking distance of a local park or other recreational facility
- Americans on average visit their local park and recreation facilities more than twice a month
- 78% Americans indicate they want to increase park and recreation funding
- More than 9 in 10 Americans agree that parks and recreation is an important local government service
- 68% Americans visited a local park and/or recreation facility within a month of participating in the survey
- 76% of Americans are more likely to vote for politicians who make park and recreation funding a priority
Another study, published last year, found a link between local funding for parks and recreation and mortality rates. When spending went down, mortality rates went up, according to the study, which looked at 30 years of data from American communities.
"County area spending on parks and recreation was negatively associated with overall and female-specific mortality from 1980 to 2010. According to our models for female and overall all-cause age-standardized mortality, when holding all else equal, a hundred-dollar increase in 2010 dollars in per capita parks and recreation operational expenditures was associated with an average decrease in morality of 3.9 and 3.4 deaths per 100,000, respectively," the study found.
Here's a link to the study, on the website of the National Institutes of Health.