Park district leaders hope to reverse revenue loss and maintain capacity
Those living outside the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District boundaries who regularly 'drop in' on its numerous recreation programs are about to get a break in fees they pay to participate.
The board's Nov. 7 decision reduces admission fees to a pool or recreation center from $12 to $8 for out-of-district and $4 for in-district users.
Total out-of-district revenue -- drop-in fees plus assessment fees of $70 quarterly or $280 annually per household -- contributed less than 12 percent of the district's annual user fee revenue in fiscal year 2010-11. That reflects a drop from 15 percent in 2006-07, leaving about $965,000, which would be enough to run the Elsie Stuhr Center or the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center for a full year, district officials said.
In an effort to reverse the lost-revenue trend and encourage wider participation in drop-in facilities and activities, such as fitness rooms, swimming and basketball, the district's board of directors voted unanimously to reduce drop-in fees for out-of-district users.
Out-of-district residents currently pay triple the in-district fee for drop-in programs. Starting in January, that ratio will decrease to double the amount, or a 33 percent reduction, to participate.
The cheaper fee is for people who pay each time they want to use a recreation or aquatic center for activities and sports.
The rate decrease is designed to better align the out-of-district rate for drop-in programs with other Northwest park and recreation agencies, said district spokesman Bob Wayt.
Board members are hopeful the reduction will raise participation enough to restore the revenue stream to earlier levels, which have eroded since 2008-09.
'We're trying to bring the prices closer to the market standard,' said Board President Bob Scott. 'Trying to recover (300 percent of) costs is quite a bit of markup for out-of-district folks, so we're bringing it down in hopes of enticing more people to come back and use our programs.'
An update this spring of the district's 2006 fee study showed the current drop-in surcharge is higher than that of other agencies surveyed.
Furthermore, the annual assessment fee for the district is $280, compared to $40 for an individual and $80 per family from the city of Albany. The city of Hillsboro's out-of-district surcharge is 50 percent above in-district rates, while Clackamas County charges 30 percent more for an annual pass.
Starting with the second year of fee increases after the study, the district saw a consistent decrease in drop-in participation and revenue. Out-of-district revenue dropped 12 percent from a high of $608,552 in 2008-09 to the current level of $492,302.
A rate decrease, as the study stipulated, should not just reverse the negative revenue trend but reflect how many out-of-district patrons live within the district's 'ultimate' service boundary. That includes the total eligible area from which the district could add residents in the future.
While residence information isn't required for drop-in users, the study revealed those who buy passes come from a wide geographic area.
Here is the distribution among Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties from fiscal year 2010-11:
'A lot of people are coming from outside the ultimate service boundary,' said Ann Mackiernan, the park district's operations analysis manager. 'There's no reason not to lower the fee because we're not going to discourage those users from annexing into the park district.
'We are drawing people from a big area.'
Scott said the board attempts to strike a balance: Providing in-district residents the services for which they're already invested while making sure the activities have healthy participation.
'It's a fine line,' he said. 'We've got to make sure we protect our in-district patrons and assure they have first availability. But if there are open spots, we want to fill those. We don't make any money on an empty spot.'
For information on district passes and program options, visit thprd.org or call 503-645-6433.