Fees needn’t discourage public use
by Sam Matthews
Apr 24, 2014 | 3777 views | 2 2 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Looking over the story in last week’s Press about the city staff’s plans to raise fees for city services to close budget gaps caused me to again mull over the issue of fees charged for the use of public facilities.

After reading about the need to raise fees by 2.556 percent on July 1, I was encouraged to read in the article that Anne Bell, a management analyst in the finance department, said that “consideration is also given toward making positive services are affordable to the community. It’s a balancing act.”

I’d like to second that motion. I have long been concerned that at least some fees charged by the city and also the Tracy Unified School District are keeping Tracy residents from using public facilities.

Obviously, as Anne said, it’s a balancing act, but there needs to be adequate consideration that the scales are not weighted too heavily toward revenue generation. Fees and also use policies are realities of the public’s ability to use the facilities, but they should be realistic in order not to discourage the public’s enjoyment of those facilities.

When I hear that the Olympic-sized swimming pool at West High School — a major investment by both the city and the school district — is unsuitable for competitive swimming, then I wonder.

I know use of school cafeterias for fundraising dinners is very expensive and has been ruled out as cost prohibitive by most nonprofit organizations, even those closely connected to the schools.

It was only a few years ago that the city staff proposed that residents be charged for emergency calls by the fire department. People asked, “What am I paying tax for anyway?” That proposal went over like the proverbial lead balloon and was quickly withdrawn.

That, of course, was at the extreme end of the fees-for-service conundrum, but it did raise a red flag.

I do feel, though, that the city is doing a good job of making public use of the new Tracy Transit Station attractive. That building is a real jewel of a public facility.

I’m not saying that the folks at City Hall and at the Tracy Unified head office are blind to the fee and use-policy issues, but I hope they are looking closely at how fee levels are determined, so they are not so inflated that they discourage the public’s use of the many public facilities and services in our town.

Jousting over fees

Meanwhile in Stockton, the volunteers who run the annual Stockton Asparagus Festival are jousting with the city of Stockton about fees charged for that city’s services.

I know I’ve heard concerns voiced by Marc Marchini, the Union Island grower and chairman of the California Asparagus Commission, and by Tracy coffee friend C.P. Riddle, who, like Marc, is a member of the Asparagus Festival’s board of directors.

“We’re in the first years of a three-year contract with the city, and although fees haven’t been raised much this year, at the end of the contract the city could be completely out of sponsoring the festival,” he said. “That would make it impossible for us to pay volunteer organizations for their service to the festival.”

C.P. noted that Stockton has so many negative images that the positive message sent by the Asparagus Festival needs to be a major factor in determining the city of Stockton’s position on fees charged.

And don’t forget that this year’s “gras” fest is this weekend, he reminded me.

“I’ve been to the festival area and it has never looked better, with great tents along Center Street and in Asparagus Alley,” C.P. said. “We are counting on a comeback this year.”

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
May 01, 2014
A swim center? What another waste go jump in a lake. Go join a gym. Tracy is just a truck stop and a commuter pass through. When will the senseless thinking and spending stop.
May 01, 2014
In our history classes we learned that people also used to think that children did not need to waste their time going to school. Fortunately society embraced child labor laws to protect the innocent. The reason people say Tracy is a truck stop is because people like yourself don't care to better yourselves. If you don't want a swim center I can understand that is how you feel. But you should know that even a child can see through your logic. You belittle your community and want to drag everybody else down with you. I don't know how but I hope the majority of the community has less apathy than yourself.

Or we are doomed to be nothing more than a truck stop. So, either drive a truck or do something to make a difference. Complaining won't help anybody.

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