W. Va. Rec Department Using Study to Leverage Funding

After suffering through annual budget cuts and revenue reductions, administrators at a West Virginia parks and recreation department are hoping to use the results of a recent Marshall University Study to leverage more financial support.

A study prepared in December by Marshall assistant professor Richard Abel compared the amount of 2009-10 fiscal year per capita local tax support for recreation services in eight West Virginia communities ranging in 2009 estimated population from 5,540 (City of New Martinsville) to 191,663 (Kanawha County). Abel told the Hagerstown, Md.-based Herald-Mail that residents of Martinsburg-Berkely County are getting a particularly "big bang for their dollar."

For the year, the department made $581,618 in tax revenue, which equates to $5.60 per resident, given the estimated population of 103,854. While Kanawha County came in at $6.26 per resident and the City of Huntington (population 103,241) came in at $19.92, none of the other departments studied were receiving less than $40 in per capita tax support. At the top of the list were the City of Bridgeport ($95.94 per capita, population 7,936) and the City of Clarksburg ($67.29 per capita, population 16,406).

According to Herald-Mail reports, if the hotel tax revenues that feed Martinsburg-Berkely County's recreation department are subtracted, the per capita figure drops to less than $2.50 annually. "Out-of-town residents are paying more for public recreation (here) than people than people that live (in Berkeley County)," the department's executive director, Steve Catlett, told the paper.

The relatively minimal tax support of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County recreation is particularly problematic since the department has struggled to maintain other annual revenue allocations. Although the department is expected to see a modest $12,500 this year from the Berkeley County Board of Education for recreational programming, the Berkeley County Commission has cut the $100,000 allocation of hotel tax revenue toward recreation to $72,000. In total, the department is expecting to operate with $53,000 less revenue this year.

"For us to survive, we have to generate almost 70 percent of our ($2.1 million) budget," Catlett told the Herald-Mail.

Although voters have turned down three levies to provide the department with additional funding in recent years, Catlett said he plans to use the study to justify the allocation of additional money to the department, especially since renovations to an existing recreation center are under way and another recreation center project is in the planning stages.

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