LAWRENCE: 13 percent hike in Rec fees possible

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
   An ordinance that would raise Recreation Department fees will be introduced by Township Council, possibly as soon as the council’s meeting Monday night, according to Municipal Manager Richard Krawczun.
   A 13 percent hike in the Recreation Department fees was floated before Township Council at its Nov. 8 meeting by Superintendent of Recreation Steven Groeger. It was one of three scenarios offered by Mr. Groeger to generate revenue and eventually allow the department to become self-sustaining.
   Although the ordinance is in the process of being drafted, the fees in the aggregate will total 13 percent, Mr. Krawczun said. Some fee increases will be higher and some will be lower than 13 percent, he said.
   The Recreation Department offers nearly 50 programs for children and adults, ranging from youth sports clinics and lessons to adult sports leagues. It also coordinates special events, such as the Fourth of July fireworks show, Community Day and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
   Mr. Groeger told the council at its meeting earlier this month that the Recreation Department’s philosophy is that its offerings should not be off-limits to children whose families cannot afford the fees, so provisions are made for the children of those families. But that financial assistance is money that the department does not collect, he said.
   Offering the Recreation Department programs is not cheap, Mr. Groeger said. The department’s anticipated budget for 2013 is $501,677, which includes operating expenses — office supplies, equipment and uniforms for sports teams and miscellaneous costs — plus salaries and benefits for the two full-time employees and the seasonal employees.
   The fees charged for the Recreation Department programs cover the individual programs’ costs, but not the entire department budget, he said. A 13-percent hike in program fees for 2013 means the increased revenue — combined with grants and permits to use township athletic fields and parks — would raise more than $300,000 in net revenue.
   The net cost to run the Recreation Department would be $168,533.
   Mr. Groeger also suggested at Township Council’s Nov. 8 meeting that fees could be raised by 13 percent for 2013, but the annual increase could be reduced to 6 percent in 2014 to 2017 by finding other means of raising revenue.