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Study: Berkeley Co. parks and recreation offers residents 'pretty big bang for their dollar'

Based on 2009 estimated population, board received $5.60 per resident for the 2009-10 fiscal year

January 22, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Recreational support graphic
Recreational support graphic

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The amount of local tax money allocated for public parks and recreation in Berkeley County in the last fiscal year ranked last among several West Virginia communities, according to a Marshall University professor's analysis.

For the 2009-10 fiscal year, the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board received $581,618 in local tax revenue, or $5.60 per resident based on the county's 2009 estimated population of 103,854, according to analysis by Assistant Professor Richard Abel.

"They're getting a pretty big bang for their dollar," Abel said in an interview Thursday.

Among seven other recognized parks and recreation programs included in Abel's study, the City of Bridgeport ranked highest in local tax support for parks and recreation, contributing $95.94 per each of the municipality's 7,936 residents.

The Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District, which served about the same estimated population as Berkeley County, received $19.92 per capita in local tax support.

If the Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board's share of hotel/motel taxes is subtracted, the amount of local tax support per resident drops to less than $2.50, Parks & Recreation executive director R. Stephen "Steve" Catlett said last week.

"Out-of-town residents are paying more for public recreation (here) than people that live (in Berkeley County)," Catlett said.

Abel's findings will be used by Catlett to bolster the Parks & Recreation Board's request for more funding from the City of Martinsburg and the Berkeley County Council this year. The Berkeley County Board of Education's annual allocation for county recreational programming is slated to increase from $100,000 to $112,500 for the next fiscal year through the excess levy's renewal, according to Catlett.

"For us to survive, we have to generate almost 70 percent of our ($2.1 million) budget," Catlett said of revenue generated from admissions, participation fees, special events and other fundraising efforts.

With the economic downturn, Catlett said hotel/motel tax revenues have dropped, and the Berkeley County Commission cut its allocation in recent years from $100,000 to $72,000 this year due to budget pressures.

While operating with $53,000 less per year, services still have increased and facilities have been expanded, which Catlett said is a "testament" to the work of Parks & Recreation Board members and staff.

A 5,000-square-foot expansion of the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center is currently under way.

Catlett said attempts to secure additional funding through a voter-approved levy failed three times. A majority of voters supported the last attempt several years ago, but the initiative still failed because passage required a 60 percent vote in favor of the levy, Catlett said.

Catlett told board members last week that he plans to tell city leaders the request for additional funding from the municipality is justified, at least in part, because county money being used to operate the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center in Martinsburg will be needed to staff and operate the southern Berkeley County recreation center that is being planned.

The Parks & Recreation Board recently received a financial commitment from Powerball jackpot winner W. Randy Smith to build a second recreation center in the Inwood-Bunker Hill area.

Aside from receiving relatively little tax support from local sources, Catlett said the lack of a state-level program to assist with park land acquisition hasn't helped matters, either.

Catlett has been talking with county school officials about a possible location for the southern Berkeley County recreation center, but the need for a large, regional park in the community as well as in northern Berkeley County remain.

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