The Kutzky Park tennis courts are owned by the city of Rochester and were recently dramatically improved by an independent fundraiser. Why must I pay each time I play on these outdoor public courts? As a nonmember of the Rochester Tennis Connection, a private club located on West Seventh Street, I’m obliged to give a RTC staffer $10 each time I visit the Kutzky site. How did this arrangement come about? Soldiers’ Field has excellent, city-owned tennis courts yet there’s no one there with their hand out when I drive up. Please explain to a Perplexed Player.
It might feel like you've been backhanded, Perplexed Player, but the improvements you mention in your question are the very reason why there's now a fee.
As nice as the Soldiers Field courts are -- and other neighborhood courts around the city, too -- they don't have restrooms, a clubhouse, daily upkeep and on-site staffing the way the Kutzky Park courts now do. Those have to be kept up somehow, and the fees paid by Rochester Tennis Connection and individual payers, like yourself, provide the means.
I've spent enough time in government meeting rooms to have learned that one of the most persistent tasks in local government is to figure out the fairest way to assign costs for government services. Sometimes that involves taxes, especially in cases where the service or product is widely used by generally everybody. Take busy roads, for just one example, but you could also say that most elements of the public park system form a general network that benefits everybody, too, thus the tax support for most of it.
Where fees often come in is where the service benefits very specific people. Take the city golf courses for one example. Or, it's where there is a "premium" level of service that's been offered, over and beyond the general service. That would seem to be the case with the Kutzky Park tennis courts, where the city employs a tennis pro, Tim Butorac, to give lessons and classes, and the facilities are a bit nicer and more complete. There are plenty of other places for duffers like me to hit balls into a net.
As you probably already know, I live to serve. Send questions for the Answer Man to firstname.lastname@example.org.