by Connor Hill, GovDirections Intern

In order for local governments to improve and maintain their communities, elected officials allocate revenues to projects and equipment prioritized along citizen goals. This article compares cities and their capital spending plans for Parks and Recreation goals in several southeastern states. The goal is to draw comparison between these local governments so trends can be identifies and private companies providing those work for those projects and equipment can better estimate profitable areas of business opportunity.

The data has been gathered form approved budgets for the current or upcoming fiscal years. The data comes directly from each local government’s operating budgets and Capital Improvement Plans (CIPS). To accommodate for differences in population, comparisons are made on a per capita scale so that we can determine average spending per citizen. This is an acceptable methodology to allow the development of benchmarks that can show differences and develop spending projections on a regional or state basis.


Table I
States Analyzed

North Carolina
South Carolina (Highest per capita)
Florida (Lowest per capita)

Table I shows a list of the states where data was pulled. Overall, we found that local governments plan to spend a per capita average of $50.36. The highest per capita spending was found in South Carolina and the lowest in Florida.

BaseballGovernments Plan to Spend on Recreation


South Carolina is a starting point for this analysis, because among the southeastern cities Columbia[i] and Charleston[ii] plan to spend the most budget funds per capita on Parks and Recreation. Thus, making them an outlier in the data collection. Columbia ranking number one at $147.72 per capita, and Charleston following with $123.44. This trend alone shows that these two cities of nearly identical populations are very similar in their plans for Parks and Recreation.

Table II
South Carolina Projects

Park Restoration/Refurb- $15,432,700
Arts Center Facility- $1,150,000
Small Park Space- $1,981,559
Structure Demolition & Park Creation- $1,850,025
Lake Renovation- $6,134,090

This trend is quite similar to one that is visible in the state of Florida. However, there are some differences.


Florida is located on the opposite side of the spectrum of per capita spending. The cities of Tallahassee[i] and Jacksonville[ii] rank the lowest in intended per capita spending for Parks and Recreation. Tallahassee ranking lowest at $5.11 per capita, and Jacksonville ranking slightly higher at $7.12. These cities of incredibly different population sizes are choosing to spend similar amounts of money per capita on Parks and Recreation. This trend is intended to continue for several years, which can be seen in the future plans laid out in each city’s budget.

Florida Projects

Sports Center Lights- $278,000
Facility Maintenance- $953,000
Park Upgrades- $1,655,105
Park Amenities- $1,000,000
Pool Construction- $150,000

The connecting trend that is visible here is that cities of any population size will allocate a similar amount of funds to their Parks and Recreation departments, if they are outliers when compared to other cities of states in their region. This process may be fueled by an overarching state plan for Parks and Recreation that each city is following, or even attempts to grow their departments versus just maintaining what they have. The higher spending states choosing to grow their departments, and the lower spending choosing to simply maintain what they have. The trend is subject to change however, if a city that is choosing to grow reaches its intended growth point before another in its state. For example, P&R spending in Columbia is intended to decrease in 2018 after most likely reaching their intended growth point. The Charleston will continue growing their P&R department, but will quickly begin decreasing after 2019.

Both Florida and South Carolina are outliers in the data, but other states still have large projects they are implementing. Table IV shows projects in the cities that are closer to the average ($50.36) in terms of per capita spending.

Cities                                       Projects

Nashville, Tennessee         Open Space Creation- $18,000,000
Baton Rouge, Louisiana         River Center Improvements- $500,000
Savannah, Georgia                     Park Upgrades- $410,000
Raleigh, North Carolina        Aquatic Improvements- $1,500,000

[I] Columbia Budget
[II] Charleston Budget
[III] Tallahassee Budget
[IV] Jacksonville Budget

Published by

Mark Knowles

Mark is the founder and President of GovDirections. He is also the founder of He has 27 years experience working with and around government agencies. He has contracted with more than 300 local government agencies. Learn more about Mark.

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