Parks and Rec Commission Recommends Fee Increases

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 07, 2008 - 11:55:00 AM

If a proposal by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission is approved by the City Council in September, Berkeley residents will have to wait longer for senior citizen discounts for some city programs. 

At a public meeting last week, the commission approved recommending fee increases to the council for several programs at the city’s parks but voted against increasing the current $2 swimming rates for youth by 50 cents, with the caveat that the age for senior rates be increased from 55 to 65, city officials said. 

“All those people who thought they would get in when they were 55 will now have to wait 10 years more,” said Lisa Stephens, a parks and recreation commissioner. “I voted no because they decided to change the senior citizen age without notifying the public.” 

Scott Ferris, the city’s youth services and recreation manager, said the fee increase was due to an increase in expenditures. 

“There has been a 9 percent increase in general fund and camp-related programs,” he said, adding that adoption of the proposed fees would produce approximately $230,400 in additional revenue. 

Ferris said that around $107,520 would offset the expected $131,000 annual fee associated with the Recreation Division’s new online registration system, $38,400 would fund possible general fund utility charges and $84,480 would pay for code compliance and other issues at Echo Lake and Tuolumne camps. 

Stephens said she understood why the commission was approving the fee increases. 

“I don’t question the principle behind it because, without funding from somewhere else, there isn’t really any other choice,” Stephens said. “Without the fee increase the parks department will not be able to continue with the programs.” 

The commission also recommended increasing rates from $27 to $40 for park room rentals, which Stephens said might be unaffordable for a lot of groups. 

According to Ferris, the current fees of $27 per hour for renting park rooms to youth, seniors and the disabled failed to cover costs. 

“A minimum of $40 must be charged in order to recover what it costs to rent the facility,” Ferris said. “However, the rate of renting our arts room is staying at the flat fee of $80, so this will be more affordable. We are currently expanding a lot of our facilities.” 

The commission’s recommendation also says that picnic spots at Codornices and Live Oak parks will now cost $55 for four hours—a $12 increase from the old rate. 

“Our staff found that other agencies were charging an average of $72 for picnic areas with similar capacities and amenities,” Ferris said. “We proposed the fee increase to more closely align with the value and popularity of these larger picnic sites.” 

The city charges $160 daily for special events—regardless of the number of people involved—but might start charging according to the number of participants if the council approves the commission’s recommendations. 

The fee increase would also open up scholarships, Ferris said, and allow unlimited discounts to qualifying low-income youth applicants.  

“Currently only one discount is offered annually for camp programs,” Ferris said. “But now you can apply for youth and family scholarships.”