When you pump that iron at city recreation centers, you might need to pump your wallet a bit too.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is conducting a forum later this month to get public opinion on creating new fees that would help the department deal with expected financial shortfalls in 2010.
“We want to get feedback on potentially charging for things that we’ve never charged for before,” said Ernie Shaw, the city’s acting director of Parks and Recreation.
At the forum — from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 16 at Lawrence High — participants will be given a survey that gauges their willingness to pay a fee for several services. Some of the ideas under consideration include charging a fee for use of cardio and weight rooms in recreation centers, charging admission to Prairie Park Nature Center, and increasing swimming pool fees.
“These days more communities charge a fee than don’t,” Shaw said of adding fees to use recreation center services.
The department charges for most classes and sports leagues, but it has relied on a mix of sales and property taxes to cover operating expenses of many facilities.
Parks and Recreation leaders have been on alert since early this year when state lawmakers began talking about keeping liquor tax revenues that generally are distributed to the city.
Lawrence Parks and Recreation gets $600,000 a year in liquor tax revenue, Shaw said. Recent movement in the Legislature has made it less likely the state will keep that money, but other budget challenges are expected.
Because of shrinking property values, the city expects a decline in tax revenues. Whether sales tax revenues will grow also is uncertain.
“We still feel like we’re in a position where we need to get views on whether people are willing to pay a little more or whether people are willing to have us stop doing some things,” Shaw said.
The City Commission will make the final decisions this summer on how the parks and recreation budget is crafted. Mayor Mike Dever said he’s interested in how residents respond.
Earlier this year, city staff members proposed closing the Prairie Park Nature Center and the city’s wading pool, eliminating summer band concerts, and shortening the hours at many recreation centers.
“We heard an outcry from the public,” Dever said. “And I think we also heard a willingness to help pay for some of those operations in the future.”
Dever said if residents want to keep the same level of services, increased fees were a likely option because he doesn’t think increased property taxes will be a popular option.
“I don’t hear many City Commission candidates or the remaining commissioners talking about increasing property taxes,” Dever said.