A better way to fund recreation Pay to play: Anne Arundel County eyeing Baltimore City's solution on golf courses.


DURING LEAN BUDGET times such as these, recreation projects generally fall at least a few notches on the government's priority list. We need police and sewer service; we can live without ballfields and golf courses. Still, we want ballfields and golf courses. Contingents of citizens asking for more recreational facilities show up year after year at budget hearings each spring. Demand for nice golf courses is particularly great.

Under legislation now before the General Assembly, Anne Arundel County would be able to meet these demands without diverting resources from essential services and increasing its debt. How? Through creation of a revenue authority a non-profit corporation that would take over administration of public recreation programs, including borrowing for new facilities, charging fees for services such as tee time and then reinvesting in recreation.

The authority could supervise all kinds of recreational programs, but supporters are pushing it specifically with golf courses in mind. As it is, profits from fees paid by golfers at the public Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville about $100,000 last year are collected by the Department of Recreation and Parks and plowed back into the county's general fund to be spent on roads, schools and other necessities. Meanwhile, grounds work at the golf course goes undone. While the county certainly needs revenue for essentials, this practice does not jibe with the concept touted increasingly in Anne Arundel and other jurisdictions where tax resistance is high of asking individuals to pay fees for specific services.

With a revenue authority, money paid by golfers is channeled back into golf. Conversely, taxpayers who don't golf won't pay to maintain or build golf courses. This system has worked well in Baltimore, where golf courses were looking shabby until 1985 when the city created the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. to manage them. Since then, the city greens have been transformed into showpieces. Millions of dollars' worth of improvements have been made at no cost to taxpayers. And the authority returns hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to the city for other rec programs, an arrangement Anne Arundel also would enjoy. This is a no-lose proposal for Anne Arundel. Lawmakers should support it.

Pub Date: 3/13/96

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