(8/1) In these troubled economic times, it is important to be thrifty, but not cheap. Cheap is not changing the oil in your car- ever. Sure, you save the 25 bucks every few months but in the
end, it ends up costing you a lot more. Thrifty is changing your oil a few hundred miles before it is due because the garage is running a special this week only. You save today and it costs you less in the long
Spending on parks and recreation within reason is thrifty. Although the budget axe often severs these budgets, it is a fool's bargain. It is a proven fact that youth participating in parks and
recreation programming are much less likely to commit crime or get pregnant. It costs $56,000 a year to incarcerate just one child; that is more than the salary needed for a director of parks and recreation. The
average cost to taxpayers per year of just one teen pregnancy is $1,647. In 2008, the cost of teen pregnancy to taxpayers in Pennsylvania alone was $468 million according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen
Pregnancy. 72% of that was state and local tax dollars. These are staggering numbers, and numbers that can be changed simply by being thrifty.
The Municipalities Planning Code does not require either townships or counties to fund parks, but rather it says that either may do so. I am of the opinion that it should be done on a County
level. In Freedom Township, we have less than 1,000 residents total. This means we do not have enough kids of the appropriate ages to field even one baseball, football or soccer team let alone have another team for
them to play. Therefore, it only makes sense to "do" parks and recreation at a regional level. The County has the ability to spread the burden to all households, not just the municipalities that have parks. This is
only fair, as every municipality has children (and adults) who enjoy parks. The County will also enjoy the savings of not paying to lock up our children and not having to aid them with pregnancies. Similarly, many
municipalities realize that parks and recreation are absolutely vital to their community while other municipalities free load by not providing any parks and not helping to pay for the parks their citizens use.
The statewide average for spending on parks and recreation is $28.37 per person per year. In Adams County the average is less than $1.50. It is true that many organizations such as the Upper
Adams Jaycees as well as many other social clubs and churches do a lot and are not credited in that number, but we need to do more. Having served on the Gettysburg Area Peer To Peer parks and recreation study, it is
clear to me that for much less than the statewide average- for just about $5perperson peryear- we could have a really nice program that would help to keep our kids safe and provide enjoyment for all ages, too.
The reason we can do it for less than the statewide average is that we have many things going for us already. In addition to the parks and programs mentioned above, Strawberry Hill Nature
Preserve offers kids a chance to get in touch with nature and does it without taxpayer dollars (I strongly suggest you give them a "tip" for doing such great work). Also the school districts share their playing
fields as does Gettysburg College. I really do not think we need more parks, just more activities in our already existing parks to keep our kids out of trouble, and we need to help maintain them.
My plan is to establish six volunteer regional recreation boards. These boards would each serve areas similar to our school districts. These boards would be tasked with advising the
Commissioners with how to best utilize that region's budget. The budget for each region would be determined by the population size. This would eliminate the need for bureaucracy yet get the input needed for wise
spending decisions. This would also allow for different regions to emphasize the programs that match their citizens' needs and wants yet retain accountability to the taxpayers.
I encourage anyone who has any thoughts or comments for me on any topic to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 717-337-0217. Ideas are always made better by input.
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