Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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In Las Vegas, cost of using Safekey, municipal pools and parks likely to rise

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Steve Marcus / Las Vegas Sun

Cartwright Elementary students work on their homework during a SafeKey program after school on June 4, 2002.

Las Vegas residents who rent fields or pavilions at municipal parks, swim at recreation centers or take their kids to Safekey could all find themselves paying more for services in the coming year after the city council gave staff permission today to begin raising fees at its facilities.

The issue: The city council considered whether to allow the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services department to adjust its fees to bring in more money to pay for operations.

The vote: Approved unanimously.

What it means: After years of making back only 30 percent of what it spends on parks and recreation centers through user fees, the city will look to raise prices to increase its cost recovery to 50 percent and possibly more, bringing it in line with national averages.

The department brought in $7.5 million in revenue against $26.5 million in costs last year. Its worst returns were on its aquatics, senior services and municipal sports programs, each of which brought in only about 10 percent of what they cost to run.

A consultant’s report presented to the council today explained that by raising fees in certain areas to improve cost recovery, the city could reduce the amount it subsidizes the department out of its general fund significantly.

It’s the first time in more than 20 years the city has taken a comprehensive look at what it spends and makes operating its parks, a discussion council members said was overdue.

“I think it’s irresponsible on our part to operate our facilities and rent our fields knowing full well upfront that we’re only recouping 50 cents on the dollar,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said.

Although the council authorized the fee increases today, several raised concerns about pricing citizens out of the facilities and asked that any increases be moderate and fairly applied.

“Before we pull the trigger on this, let’s make sure the gun isn’t aimed right at us. The majority of this money is spent on children and seniors. Let’s think carefully,” Councilman Bob Coffin said. “It really requires some discretion and some thoughtfulness before we just simply say let’s raise it up to a cost recovery number. Let’s take a look at who perhaps can afford more.”

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