Magazine article Parks & Recreation

New Threats ... but New Opportunities

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

New Threats ... but New Opportunities

Article excerpt

While the 2017 NRPA Agency Performance Review focuses on current performance benchmarks, a look at present-day uncertainties and future trends and prospects also should be part of park and recreation professionals' decision-making. We asked William Beckner, president of CEHP, Inc., for his insights:

Throughout the history of parks and recreation, when times of uncertainty have gripped the country and its people, the impact on the field has generally been positive: from the settlement houses and playground movement arising from the monetary crisis of the 1890s, the recreation programs that maintained morale amongst recruits in WWI mobilization camps and the federal programs introduced during the Great Depression, right up to the tax revolt of the late 70s and early 80s.

From 1980 to 2007, we experienced economic recessions, rapid changes in technology and communications, increased partisanship and political divisiveness; yet, we survived and often thrived during most of those years. In the last decade, reduced budgets, job loss, more invasive terrorism and similar events built an atmosphere of uncertainty that we face going into 2017.

Regardless of your political preferences, now is the time to develop strategies to meet the challenges or opportunities that may impact your department and jurisdiction. Both federal and state actions are likely to impact your goals and strategies. Below are issues/trends that may change how you plan and execute your capital projects, and the ways and means of your operations.


There are many potential factors that could affect your agency's ability to hire qualified labor:

* The American Society of Civil engineers (ASCE) reported in November that 200,000 entry labor jobs were unfilled.

* Even with inflated unemployment levels in some areas, many jobs go unfilled as the available workers lack the needed skill set and/or level of experience.

* Potentially more stringent immigration policies and labor rules may further reduce the labor pool that your agency has tapped previously to fill seasonal or entry-level permanent positions.


Depending on potential legislative action at local, state and federal levels, employee costs could either increase or decrease. Factors to consider: Potential Cost Reductions:

* Going into 2017, regulations requiring overtime for employees making less than about $48,000 annually have been delayed. The future of these regulations, if any, is uncertain.

* Regulations requiring health benefits for employees working more than 90 days may change or go away. Potential Cost Increases:

* The most immediate cost pressure is the efforts across the United States to increase the minimum wage.

* A tight supply of skilled labor could lead to bidding wars for the best job candidates, potentially increasing labor costs.


Because of increased employee costs, many agencies are seeking private individuals or companies to provide specified services instead of hiring permanent employees. Many functions of the agency are candidates for privatization. Factors include:

* The agency's knowledge of the cost and specifications required for the potentially privatized service. Not being aware of what it costs you to do the job and define its specific tasks can lead to unsatisfactory performance, unnecessarily high costs or both.

* The market factors that lead you to seek privatized service providers may also increase the private sector costs. This cost places additional cost pressures on your agency.

* Consider reviewing internal barriers and constraints to operations, equipment and organization to determine if changes in these areas can generate cost savings.


Congress is considering several bills designed to create jobs and improve the condition of various infrastructures. …

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