For several years, the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department has submitted information to the Florida Benchmark Consortium to see how we compare with other parks and recreation departments around the state. And the results just released prove that we are efficient stewards of our citizens’ resources.
For example, the state-wide average maintenance cost per acre is $2,911, while Marion County spends less than half that amount at $1,050. Our operating costs per person are only $8.53 compared to the state-wide average of $25.68. While the state-wide average cost for operating expense for park maintenance totals $8.2 million, Marion County spent $2.5 million. The most impressive benchmark was for our operating expense for recreation totaling $238,668, while the state-wide average was $9.7 million.
Of course, there is always room for improvement.
The percentage of our operational budget supported by user fees was 29 percent, while the state-wide average was 33.5 percent. In order to bridge that gap, the Board of County Commissioners agreed with the recommendations of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council which included increasing the per person fee at KP Hole from $3 to $5 and increasing program fees for those recreation programs exceeding capacity by up to 15 percent.
Finally, since the Department has been tracking traffic counts in FY 02/03, they are up 195 percent through FY 10/11. This does not include the number of people who visit KP Hole (as that is tracked by the person, not the vehicle) nor does it include 13 of our parks which do not have traffic counters installed.