Trends in State Governments Expenditures on Parks and Recreation 1989/90 through 1999/2000


  • John L. Crompton
  • Andrew T. Kaczynski


state government, parks and recreation, revenue, expenditures, employment.


US Census Bureau data were used to analyze trends in states’ expenditures on parks and recreation in the decade of the 1990s. In real dollar terms, states’ aggregate budgets increased by 47% during the decade, while their expenditures on parks and recreation increased less auspiciously by 26%. States’ expenditures on parks and recreation represented 0.55% of their total budgets. The ratio of operating to capital expenditures approximated 75:25, and self-generating revenues comprised 40% of operating expenses on average.

The average per capita expenditure on state park and recreation services increased in real dollars by 11.5% during the decade, but the range of per capita investment among the states was remarkable with five states averaging less than $5 while at the other pole another five averaged over $27. The range in self-generated revenues was similarly wide. In three states, these revenues either exceeded or almost met operating expenses, while at the other extreme there were ten states whose self-generated revenues accounted for less than 10% of operating costs.

During the decade, states’ capital investments in parks and recreation totaled $7.845 billion. The increase in tax revenues provided to operate this additional investment amounted to 4% of this investment. Further, full-time personnel decreased 4% in the decade, while part-time employees declined by 32 percent.

To facilitate comparisons by a state with a set of states whose facility inventory, responsibilities and political philosophies are similar, complete state breakdowns of all the data analyzed in the paper are provided on a website.





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