Public Response to Park and Recreation Funding and Cost-saving Strategies: Th e Role of Organizational Trust and Committment
Keywords:Funding strategies, trust, commitment, fees, tax support, corporate sponsorship
AbstractHistorically, public park and recreation services have been funded through general funds and appropriations, with minimal amounts derived from non-tax revenue sources. The fiscal conservative movement, however, has spawned an expansion of nontax revenues and cost saving strategies. Th is study examines the level of citizen support for a variety of funding and cost-saving strategies for park and recreation agencies in a metropolitan region, and the factors related to citizens’ opinions about such strategies. Data were collected through a mail survey of adult residents of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania region. A total of 578 questionnaires were completed. Results showed that funding strategies involving external contributions such as donations and corporate sponsorships were most strongly supported by the local citizenry. Respondents were least supportive of park services privatization and the use of park entrance fees. Regression analysis was used to test the relationships between citizen socio-demographic characteristics, park use patterns, organizational trust and commitment, and level of support for the various strategies. Organizational trust, commitment, and citizen characteristics were signifi cantly related to a number of funding strategies. While prior research has examined the role of trust and commitment in the implementation of enterprise funding strategies (e.g. user fees), our data indicates that trust and commitment were more salient for general tax support than for other, more transactional funding strategies, such as user fees and corporate sponsorships. Respondents who perceived that their local park agencies were socially competent and who were more committed to the agency were also more likely to support taxes and less likely to support park privatization. These results affirm that a trusting and committed citizenry is a key ingredient in preventing the erosion of tax-based support and the subsequent privatization of park and recreation services. Park and recreation administrators who wish to expand their funding beyond existing tax support should take actions to foster trust and commitment across their multiple constituent groups. Agencies that currently enjoy a high level of constituent trust and commitment should be cautious when privatizing park services, lest they compromise existing levels of trust and commitment.
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