New San Francisco park fees are on the horizon 

Professional dog walkers and the organizers of exercise boot camps will probably have to pay a fee next year to help defray an expected $3.9 million budget deficit at the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.

But unlike last year, other park amenities seem to have dodged the budget axe.

On Thursday, Recreation and Park commissioners unanimously approved what they called an “impressive” overall plan that appears likely to prevent layoffs, fee hikes and service reductions by once again generating more revenue.

“Where we are today is a much better place than we were 12 months ago,” Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg told commissioners.

City rules already require commercial park users such as dog walkers and boot camp operators to obtain permits. But right now, the rule is not enforced, limiting a potential source of new revenue. The new fees are expected to bring in $50,000.

The department hopes to raise the other revenue it needs by continuing to find new income sources such as hosting events and allowing food vendors.

It also plans to slow down hiring, cut back on overtime and reduce workers’ compensation costs.

Katie Petrucione, the department’s director of administration and finance, said the proposed fees are still under consideration and would eventually need to be passed by the Board of Supervisors.

Still, the cuts and fees barely hold a candle to the changes the department made last year. Twelve months ago, it pared a $12.4 million deficit by generating new sources of income and cutting back in many areas.

Now there are food carts in open spaces, Segways on sidewalks and dozens of other commercial revenue sources — which have been prominently debated by park users.

Ginsburg said this year’s budget proposal is a success story, but that the department is still far from safe.

“We’ve stopped the bleeding … but we continue to operate on a very unstable budget,” he said.

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Kamala Kelkar

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