Recreation fees fall short in Evanston

Evanston recovers far less of what it spends on parks and recreation programs in user fees than do park districts in Arlington Heights and Skokie.

Parks programs

Financial documents from each community show that for the latest year for which data is available Arlington Heights and Skokie each raised about 44 percent of the cost of their parks and recreation programs from user fees, while Evanston raised from fees only 31 percent of what it spent.

And the spread is probably actually greater than those numbers suggest, because the figures for Arlington Heights and Skokie include all park district spending — including capital improvements and debt service — while the Evanston numbers include only general fund spending on the Recreation, Parks and Forestry Department.

Those differences appear to more than outweigh the fact that Evanston’s parks department also has to maintain the city’s parkway trees and municipal building grounds, which are not a park district responsibility in the other towns.

Evanston has 290 acres of parkland, more than Skokie’s 248 acres, but far less than the 715 acres of parks in Arlington Heights.

Evanston has 120 full-time-equivalent parks employees. Arlington Heights has 103 full-time employees and over 1,000 part-timers. Skokie has 71 full-time workers and 323 part-timers.

All three communities operate a wide range of recreational facilities, but with some differences. For example, Evanston operates six beaches, but no pools, while the other communities, both landlocked, each have several indoor and outdoor pools. In the other communities the park districts operate golf courses, while in Evanston the local golf course is run by a separate non-profit organization. And Evanston also has two small independent park districts with their own budgets.

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