In the first half of 2007, the St. Joseph County, South Bend, and Mishawaka Parks and Recreation Departments faced significant budget cuts due to the newly implemented Property Tax Circuit Breaker law. They commissioned the Eppley Institute to research and identify alternative funding mechanisms that directly support the parks and recreation department budgets and lead to long-term and sustainable funding solutions.
The Eppley Institute came up with an initial set of options, including:
- Creating a joint parks and recreation department,
- Imposing developer impact fees,
- Levying a food and beverage tax,
- Encouraging interdepartmental cooperation, and
- Creating a County-wide Parks and Recreation Foundation
Eppley weighed the costs and benefits of each of these, in terms of expenses and the logistics of their implementation, and delivered their recommendations to the three agencies.
For a short-term solution, the Eppley Institute recommended that South Bend, Mishawaka, and St. Joseph County Parks and Recreation Departments form a county-wide parks and recreation foundation. For the long term, it was recommended that the three departments pool their political resources and begin lobbying efforts for a food and beverage tax to benefit parks and recreation operations in the county, because the potential for success is considerable.