SM Recreation Commission Talks Fees

As it prepares for its joint meeting with the City Council next month, the Recreation Commission has asserted its commitment to accepting nonresidents who want to enroll in its programming, and also its pride in being a city-funded operation.
Before the joint meeting scheduled for May 9, the Recreation Commission hopes to nail down any changes it would propose regarding the additional fees for nonresidents and also how to improve its cost recovery in general. It will meet next on April 23.
“We’re not here tonight because anyone has said someone in the Recreation Department has done something wrong,” City Manager Marcella Marlowe explained at the beginning of the commission’s meeting on Monday. “Really, this is about looking forward.”
Monday’s meeting focused on four areas — branding the department and its activities as “subsidized” or “city-funded”; resident and nonresident participation; nonresident fees; and cost recovery.
As the meeting approached 2½ hours, the commission tabled a decision on nonresident fees pending further research by a subcommittee.
It was clear that commissioners were united about allowing nonresidential participation in the department’s programs, whose age ranges span from toddlers to the elderly. The commission, hoping to draw enough attendance to justify its programs and also increase its revenue stream, also hesitated setting an arbitrary goal for residential participation.
“I think that nonresidents will benefit our community,” Vice Chair Hal Suetsugu said. “They provide our residents with classes they would not necessarily have because of such a small population.”
There was notable disagreement from resident Hal Harrigian, one of five advisers to the City Council’s ad hoc committee appointed in 2016 to analyze the city’s financial operations and planning. He argued against bolstering low-attendance programs with out-of-city participants.
“We want to take care of our residents and programs that make sense,” he said. “We have 13,000 people. What is the number? That’s what we’ve got to know.”
On the matter of branding, commissioners felt the word “subsidized” might carry a negative connotation and that a city that prides itself on providing a premium to its affluent residents shouldn’t shy away from how it’s funded.
“I want my public safety and I want my infrastructure, but we also need a sense of community,” Commissioner Louise Cook said. “This is really the role in which both the library and Recreation Commission play a very important part.
“I’m very fiscally responsible, but this city is not a business. We are not trying to turn a profit. You need to service the residents, but do it in a responsible and cost-effective way.”
There also was debate as to whether to change the current $5 flat fee for nonresidents, with some wanting to increase the amount and others suggesting making it percentage-based.
“If they’re going to have to pay an extra $20 fee, they’re going to walk away from our classes,” said Commissioner Stephanie Perry. “We’re going to have to cancel classes and hurt our residents.”