Largo Shows Profit on its Entertainment for Senior Citizens
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Those who have a historical knowledge of Florida will remember the ubiquitous shuffleboard courts, which attracted senior citizens enjoying their retirement years in Florida.
Such courts are rarely seen any more. In those days, seniors independently found ways to entertain themselves. Even now, some communities like Palm Hill continue that independent tradition.
But somehow or other over the years it seems the idea has crept into government that taxpayers must pay to provide entertainment for senior citizens. The idea is statewide but is particularly strong in Largo.
Many taxpayers resent this expenditure of their funds, particularly in these severe financial times.
Largo's Recreation, Parks and Arts Department, at the behest of the City Commission, has done an analysis the programs and cost provided. The analysis covers the time from last mid-October to the present.
While the report says it originated as a result of commission action, the analysis was prompted because of the continuing probing of Commissioner Curtis Holmes whose insistence has already unearthed the disastrous situation at the Cultural Center, which has reported a loss approaching $500,000, which has been reported on.
Going unnoticed these days except for getting laughs as the place where anyone can shoot a hole in one, the Largo Golf Course is a loser on the books at about $182,000 a year. Which means taxpayers subsidize the pitch and putt course to the tune of $3,500 a week.
In a city where huge cutbacks are becoming imperative and indeed a millage rate increase may be looming, it would seem that the number crunchers would look at the big losses at the Cultural Center (half a million dollars) and the Golf course and use the paring knife where obvious.
As an amusing footnote to the report on the Community Center, RPA Director Joan Byrne made sure to point out that the analysis required two hours of work time of a management analyst and two hours of staff time at the Community Center.
Another amusing sidelight, particularly in regard to outings to the Hard Rock gambling casino in Tampa, was that when Holmes revealed this at a City Commission meeting the information came as a complete surprise to the city manager, Norton Craig.
From October 13, 2009 until the end of June, events were scheduled to keep seniors amused.
Amazingly, the city claims a "profit" on the money taken in measured against the expenses paid.
But some of the figures give pause because of their inconsistency and often, throughout the analysis, more questions are raised than answered. For example, an October trip to Hard Rock Casino in Tampa was said to bring in $375 in revenue (presumably, the 25 attendees paid $15 each) while total expenses were $199.50.
(The very idea of visits to a gambling casino under city auspices has raised questions among many citizens. But the casino trips seem to be popular, regardless of the moral questions raised.)
A second trip to Hard Rock nine days after the October 13 trip raised $393 but expenses were $249.50, with no explanation for the difference. The many trips to Hard Rock (17 were scheduled in the time span covered by the report) consistently shows these inconsistencies.
Bottom line, the city came out $2,156 ahead on the activities from October 13, 2009 to June 8, 2010.
Only one trip showed a loss. That was to faraway Homosassa Springs in which only 15 people went on the long trip and there was a loss of $30.20.
About 40 percent of planned trips are canceled because of "low enrollment." It seems like the older folks are quite particular as to what they are going to allow the city to amuse them with.
Recreation, Parks and Arts says that it owns a mini-bus, which carries seniors to the events scheduled. The department also foots the cost for escorts who accompany the seniors.
Though the figures may be accurate, some who have examined them question that the city takes in, for example, $375 for a trip to Hard Rock Casino, and that this amount covers the admission of those traveling to the casino, payment to the escorts, payment to the bus driver and all the other costs attendant to the use of the bus.
The analysis also points out that "Another popular program at the Community Center is the monthly luncheons" which is described as a program that "offers seniors a meal and entertainment for $10."
While this keeps seniors out of restaurants in the private sector and puts the city in competition with Largo businesses, the report says that "Net profit from each luncheon ranges from $600 to $800."
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