An Examination of Fiscal Trends in Public Parks and Recreation from 1986 to 2001: A Case Study of North Carolina


  • Nancy J. Gladwell
  • Denise M. Anderson
  • James R. Sellers


finance, trends, budgets, public recreation


Adequate funding is perhaps the single most important factor impacting the delivery of public park and recreation services at the local level. Funding influences all aspects of local parks and recreation, from the acquisition and development of areas and facilities to the creation and delivery of products and services. The purpose of this study was to examine the fiscal trends and financial status of local public parks and recreation from 1986 to 2001 in the State of North Carolina. The sample was comprised of 30 municipal and 14 county park and recreation departments that participated in the North Carolina Recreation Resources Services’ annual finance survey for each of the 15 years of the study period.Department operating and capital budgets and per capita spending were examined for the aggregate of all responding departments. Data were adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index. The findings indicate that responding park and recreation departments were on stable financial ground during the study period. Inflation-adjusted increases were reported in operating budgets, capital budgets, and per capita spending for operating and capital expenditures. Local governments have traditionally used self-generated revenues, primarily taxation and user fees and charges, to support operating budgets for parks and recreation. It seems likely that the overall positive growth in operating budgets during the study period reflects, at least in part, the decision of a number of local governments to use self-generated revenues to increase levels of expenditures to support operating budgets.Capital budget increases during the study period were relatively small compared to gains in operating budgets. Since local governments no longer rely on federal grant programs to support capital development, local governments will have to increasingly fund capital budgets for parks and recreation from self-generated revenues. There will also need to be an increased emphasis on identifying new, alternative revenue sources such as exactions, certificates of participation, foundations, corporate sponsorships, and partnerships to support capital expenditures. Lastly, park and recreation managers in other states should consider legislative action such as the North Carolina Park and Recreation Trust Fund to provide a viable funding alternative to support capital development for parks and recreation.?





Regular Papers