PTARC officials try to determine declining rates
By Chris Foreman
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
With participation rates continuing to tumble this year, board members of the Penn-Trafford Area Recreation Commission are trying to brainstorm ideas for promoting the group's programs and renovation projects.
The new efforts come just weeks after Penn-Trafford school board members suggested slashing the district's annual PTARC contribution and Manor Recreation Board members mulled a recommendation for the borough to give its one-year notice to withdraw from the intermunicipal group.
Program registrations among most age groups are down this fall, continuing a yearlong trend of declining participation. Only 50 of the 83 classes or programs that were opened for registration are still being offered, PTARC Director Cheryl Kemerer said.
Meanwhile, Kemerer estimates recreation program revenues for 2013 to be $105,500, which is $16,000 less than projected in the 2012 budget and $37,000 less than the group collected in 2009.
“I've been doing this for a long time, and I've never seen this,” Kemerer said. “The numbers are just so low. We are racking our brains.”
The group's solvency has been a frequent topic among its member entities, which include the Penn-Trafford School District, Penn Township and Manor, Trafford and Penn boroughs.
In starting their preparation for the 2013-14 budget, school board members included the district's $46,423 contribution to PTARC among a long list of items to review in case they have to cut expenses.
One idea was to consider paring the contribution by 15 percent, which equals the decline in student enrollment in the past decade. The district's payment makes up about 21 percent of PTARC's $220,000 in projected income in 2013.
On the revenue side, school board members raised the possibility of imposing a fee on athletics or extracurricular activities if it means the district would be able to avoid cutting educational programs. Administration officials are planning in November to present some preliminary scenarios based on possible fees.
School board member Toni Ising said she and her colleagues don't want to enact an activity fee but acknowledged doing so could make it difficult to justify the same funding level for PTARC.
“One of the comments that I've heard is, if we ever go to a pay-to-play program, then we better not be giving to PTARC the same amount of money and charging our own kids to pay to play,” said Ising, who also is a PTARC board member.
Manor Council already has signed off on PTARC's 2013 budget, although last month a councilman said borough officials were considering withdrawal from the organization.
Manor Recreation Board members decided at their Oct. 1 meeting to stay in PTARC so Manor residents wouldn't have to pay nonresident fees to participate in programs, Councilman Bruce Hartman said last week. The borough also benefits from PTARC's advertisement of events in the borough, he said.
Hartman said the Manor rec board members wanted to continue participating in the group's free summer playground program for children — at least until borough officials can train their own program supervisors about liability.
But some PTARC board members say the organization has to do something to bolster its income or cut expenses. Manor Manager Joe Lapia said too many class registrations are in the single digits.
Though PTARC has helped to acquire state matching grants for park renovations in all of the municipalities, it might have to reinvent itself to keep any momentum in the community, he said.
“Maybe we have to start thinking outside the box or come up with something different because I don't think this is going to sustain us over the next three to five years,” Lapia said.
School board member Nick Petrucci, who has served on the PTARC board since the group started a decade ago, said it might have to do more to publicize its projects across the district. He suggested posting signs at playgrounds that were renovated with the help from grants PTARC received.
“I think we have to have the people see what we've accomplished, and the performance, I think, has been outstanding for a small community,” Petrucci said.
Meanwhile, Friends of PTARC, a nonprofit that supports recreation and community development in the district, is spearheading efforts to offer some free activities in the coming months.
The group plans to rent the PTARC/Shelley Proskin Recreation Center in Level Green to play host for an appreciation night for its major sponsors on Nov. 10 and offer a free senior citizen dance with light refreshments on Nov. 15.
The group will rent out the building for other free events, too, said Linda Iams, a board member of Friends and PTARC.
Building rentals were up early in the year during the mild winter, but the overall total of 47, as of last week, is down 13 from 2011.
“We're pretty much still in the infancy stages of planning events,” Iams said. “We need to get people to know who PTARC is and what they're all about.”
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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