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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
FairfaxInflation, personnel costs to his Fairfax park uses in wallet

Inflation, personnel costs to his Fairfax park uses in wallet

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The cost of partaking in many Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) activities will rise this spring if the agency’s board approves a proposed menu of fee hikes.

The Park Authority charges about 500 fees for various services, and those revenues support most of its operations, as well as debt-service payments on revenue bonds used for developing golf facilities.

Park Authority officials each year review fees and make modest adjustments instead of implementing larger increases less frequently, which they said could be more disruptive for customers.

“Fee adjustments are proposed to bring fees in line with the cost of providing services, to prevent the Park Authority from undercutting any competitors in the private sector, to provide adequate revenue to maintain the financial health of the Park Authority Revenue and Operating Fund (the repository of user fees) and to provide patrons with affordable recreation services,” officials said in a statement to the Sun Gazette.


Among the proposed changes:

• FCPA wishes to raise greens fees across the board at the agency’s golf courses, including $2 per round more for the nine-hole course at Oak Marr RECenter in Oakton. Golf demand, which rose significantly during the pandemic and continues to be high. Officials said inflation was the main reason for the fee hikes.

Golfers played 7 percent fewer rounds in fiscal 2022, also revenues from golfing operations rose 2 percent because of fee hikes.

While usage of driving ranges at agency golf courses dipped 8 percent last year, related costs rose, officials said. FCPA now is proposing to charge $1 more per bucket of balls. In addition, the agency would like to raise the price of a 20-bucket pass from $90 to $100 and a 40-bucket pass from $160 to $175.

• Facility rentals at the Twin Lakes Golf Course’s Oak Room would rise 25 percent to $500 per hour. At Laurel Hill Golf Club, rentals for the conference room would rise 20 percent to $150 per hour, plus 33 percent more for the banquet room to $400 per hour and 50 percent more to $600 per hour to rent the banquet room and Tower Grill.

• All but the youngest children (those under 4 feet tall) would pay 25 cents more to use the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole in Reston, and the Park Authority also would charge more for season passes and facility rentals.

• Fees to rent picnic shelters also would rise at some FCPA parks.
• Volleyball-court rentals would go up by $5 per hour and amphitheater-rental costs also would increase.

• Bike rentals would increase by 20 percent to $12 for the first hour and $6 for each subsequent hour.

• Amusements and rentals of kayaks, canoes and pedal boats at all locations would increase.

The slew of fee changes also would remove a host of listings for rental fees by location and replace them with a uniform charge across the board. No service changes would result from that administrative standardization, officials said.

Inflation – caused in part by supply-chain issues, a tight labor market, federal-government spending and recovery from the pandemic’s economic downturn – is a key driver of the proposed higher rates. The Consumer Price Index rose 6.9 percent over the first six months of 2022 and has risen 11.8 percent in the last three years, officials said.

In addition, FCPA leaders also must budget for a projected $1.8 million increase in wages. The fiscal 2023 budget included a 4-percent wage hike for all employees and the agency also offered signing and retention bonuses for workers in hard-to-fill summer jobs, such as those of life guards and camp counselors. The Park Authority’s budget also had to account for an increase in the minimum wage.

In addition, the cost of employee health-care benefits is up 5.8 percent to $2.15 million in fiscal 2022.

About 1.07 million people visited the county’s RECenters in fiscal 2022, which was up 90 percent over the previous (pandemic-impacted) year, and resulted in a 68-percent revenue increase. Those figures still are below pre-pandemic ones, officials cautioned, and complete recovery likely will not happen for another two or three years.

The proposed higher fees likely will not make much of a dent in demand for the agency’s services, FCPA leaders said.

“Based on our analysis, we do not expect this to have a major adverse impact on our customers, and we are still within competitive benchmark ranges for comparable activities and services,” officials said.

The Park Authority Board will vote on the changes March 22; those adopted will take effect April 1. The agency will accept public comments about the fee changes through Feb. 2 and let residents weigh at an online meeting on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. Those who wish to speak at the meeting should register with spokesman Ben Boxer at (703) 324-8662.

For more information and links to the full slate of fee changes, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/feemeeting.

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