There’s a large, new, fun-filled playground in Citrus Heights. And the Sunrise Recreation and Park District got it at a bargain price - just 75% of retail. Why? Because, as described in the Citrus Heights Sentinel, the City of Citrus Heights picked up the difference. You see, the City relies on the Park District for park and recreation services. Yet, the Park District covers both unincorporated and incorporated territory. As a “dependent” district (part of Sacramento County’s government structure, having all Board Members appointed by and beholden to County Supervisors, with an annual budget therefore controlled by the Board of Supervisors) the Sunrise Recreation and Park District does not have adequate funds to prioritize expenditures within the City of Citrus Heights. So, to ensure that Citrus Heights residents get what they want for their neighborhoods, the City routinely spends money from its budget to help the Park District. The new playground is an example of the partnership between the City and the Park District. By providing $86,000 from impact fees imposed on developers, the City made it possible for the Park district to get a new $350,000 playground.
The same kind of thing could happen in our community, but it won’t. As was pointed out at the December 2nd Community Forum, the County spends developer impact fees (such as they are) and other funds to enable sprawl on the fringes of the metro area. And that’s something the Board of Supervisors CAN do because they represent such a vast area. They don’t have to spend funds here in our old, close-in suburban community, they can do it anywhere they choose within the County. On the other hand, if our community was a city like Citrus Heights, our city council and mayor would be responsible for the care and feeding of ONLY our community. If our citizens wanted funds spent to help any of the several park districts that serve our neighborhoods, they could motivate their mayor and city council to provide the financial assistance. But we aren’t a city, we don’t have a mayor or a city council, and our Supervisors have other fish to fry. Here, the “assistance” from the County to local Park Districts consists of occasionally approving more-than-minimal budgets for the Mission Oaks Recreation and Park District (a “dependent district”), writing cursory letters of support (sometimes) for grant requests made by “independent” park districts that aren’t part of the County’s government structure (Arcade Creek, Arden Manor, Arden Park, Fulton-El Camino), and skimming large amounts of processing fees for grants awarded to park districts by the state but processed through counties. Well, OK, it’s not that far of a drive to Rusch Park, where there is a really great, new playground, is it?