County Park Fee Examination

Of the $23 million in total revenues for the Allegheny County Parks Department in 2013, $18.4 million (80%) came from the Regional Asset District additional sales tax, and the remaining $4.6 million came from various fees on activities at the nine parks. The biggest chunk was represented by golf fees ($1.79 million), followed by swimming pool fees ($0.985 million) and park shelter and stable rents ($0.649 million).

The County Council is currently considering taking a hard look at these and other fees as a way to raise new monies (one estimate puts the goal at an additional $700,000) and one Council member noted that the goal is to "set a policy where there is no such thing as free". The County commissioned a study in 2007 on the park system which said this about fees countywide: "reassess all existing fees and charges and establish new schedule of fees that reflect both the market value and cost of providing the facility and/or program". The clear message of that recommendation is that there should be a close and recurring look at the fees the County charges to help maintain the 9,000 acre park system and its amenities. Of course, boosting fees may cause some users and prospective patrons to explore other alternatives for recreational activities.

The responsibility of parks lies with the actual parks department ($8 million in expenditures), facilities management, which was broken off from Public Works and from budget narratives assumed the responsibility for parks maintenance (a share of a total of $21 million in expenditures) and the parks division of the County police ($5 million in expenditures). If the Councilman’s statement that he wants the park system overall to be more "revenue neutral" is taken to mean he wants it to be a breakeven operation, then the maintenance costs must be greater than $10 million a year based on the revenue of $23 million and the stated parks and police expenditures.