Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services is asking the city to adopt a cost-recovery model that would allow the department to expand its financial resources and better support new and existing programs.

During a Tuesday morning shirtsleeve meeting, PRCS Deputy Director Cathi DeGroot gave a presentation introducing the “Pyramid Methodology,” which breaks services down into a series of categories based on which ones best serve the community. The model can be represented as a pyramid, with the foundation level assigned to events, public parks and other services that support the largest number of people. The categories shrink up to the top, services such as vendor permits or private lessons that benefit only a few individuals.

The pyramid cost-recovery model is used nationally, including at many California parks and recreation agencies.

The pyramid model is aimed at maintaining the city’s financial control over its parks while identifying the main services that the community uses, including programs and rental facilities, DeGroot said.

“It’s not a new concept,” PRCS Director Jeff Hood said. “The parks staff attempted to get this passed 10 years ago by the council, but the council at the time felt that it was a way to raise rates for programs.”

The model’s purpose is not to raise rates for programs, Hood was quick to note, but to find a way to get residents more involved in programs in PRCS programs while re-evaluating the ones with low attendance.

“If we are offering programs that are no longer of value to the community, we (instead) need to be offering programs that are. This method helps us adapt and fund those new programs,” Hood said.

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services currently offers 29 programs to the community in a variety of categories, including sports, art and dance classes, afterschool Bridge programs and park services. The programs serve children, adults and seniors.

According to staff, the department receives an annual transfer from the city’s General Fund to underwrite the cost of maintaining public parks and employing the staff needed to continue offering these services.

However, the allocation form the General Fund only covers 60% of the parks staff budget. The rest is collected through the program fees and venue rentals.

“Hutchins Street Square continues to generate a healthy stream of revenue for the Parks budget, and while venue rentals continue to climb year after year, we have not raised the rental rates in four years,” DeGroot said.

Adopting the pyramid method would allow PRCS staff to assign funding and resources to the programs that see the most use, while also developing a fee reduction program for residents who have economic hardships, she said.

“How would something like that be regulated?” Mayor Mark Chandler said.

PRCS staff would be able to base their evaluation on a resident’s utility bill, Deputy City Manager Andrew Keys said.

“There are services that we already offer that we could just verify in our system,” he said.

The presentation was well-received by city staff and by members of the council.

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