By Steve Plunkett
Who is a resident, and how much should he or she pay to use park facilities?
Those are two questions the Boca Raton City Council and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District will try to answer at a joint meeting July 23.
Michael Kalvort, the city’s recreation services director, gave council members an overview of the mishmash of fees people pay at parks depending on whether they live in Boca Raton, outside the city but in the district, or somewhere else.
For example, Boca Raton rents pavilions at Spanish River Park to nonresidents at a higher, nonresident fee, while the Beach & Park District has a policy not to rent its pavilions in Sugar Sand Park to nonresidents.
“It’s not the most easy thing to understand, but that’s part of the issue at least from my perspective,” Kalvort said at the council’s June 11 workshop. Even defining who is a resident is problematic.
“I can’t tell you the amount of times we have people coming in from unincorporated Boca who have a Boca address and think they’re a city resident,” Kalvort said.
Some of the biggest differences, however, come in renting a baseball field or buying a tennis membership. The Beach & Park District charges residents $17.75 an hour for a baseball field; nonresidents pay $53.25 an hour. Boca Raton’s hourly fees are $25 for residents and $140 for nonresidents.
Kalvort then turned to tennis memberships.
“There are three different facilities that charge three different rates,” he said.
A family tennis membership at the district’s Swim and Racquet Center is $553 for residents and $1,598 for nonresidents. At the city’s tennis center the charges are $323 for resident families and $834 for nonresidents. At Patch Reef Park they are $213 for residents and $384 for nonresidents.
A family swimming membership at the district’s center is $127 for residents; at the city’s Meadows Park pool it’s $164.
“Trying to explain all that to our citizens over the phone or sometimes even in person gets to be very difficult and very complicated,” Kalvort said.
When it comes to sports leagues that use the parks, 36 percent of the current 6,100 youth athletes are nonresidents.
“So about 2,100 nonresidents are utilizing our fields,” Kalvort said. He suggested that when council members meet with Beach & Park District commissioners they consider limiting participation or raising fees for nonresidents.
Council member Monica Mayotte agreed that the system needs to be easier.
“I don’t want us to lose revenue on any changes that we might make, but we need to simplify this for everyone involved,” Mayotte said.
District Chairman Robert Rollins said a number of things Kalvort mentioned should be explored at the joint meeting.
“Having been on this commission for 23 years, I can’t tell you the number of times that we have talked about user fees,” said Rollins, who was re-elected unopposed for another four-year term in June, as was District Commissioner Susan Vogelgesang.
Rollins also recalled his 10 years on the city’s parks advisory board.
“Whenever the discussion came up, ‘Well, they do it this way in Waukegan,’ we’d say, ‘Well, this is Boca. This is a whole lot different than these other areas where you are looking at comparisons,’ ” he said.