During tough fiscal times, arts and sports programs are often the first to get cut from municipal budgets. So it’s not a big surprise that the “culture and recreation” category, which accounted for 2.68 percent of all spending in the average Bay State community in fiscal 2000, had dwindled down to 2.08 percent in fiscal 2007. But, as the map below indicates, not all cities and towns have downgraded parks and libraries to the same degree. Spending is generally highest in affluent, retirement-heavy communities, and it’s lowest in poorer cities and towns with relatively youthful populations. One might think that the need for diversionary activities might be greatest in the latter category, but in the zero-sum game of budgeting, these programs don’t have much room to grow in places that spend far above the state average on police (as in the beach town of Salisbury), public works (snowy North Adams), and schools (Lawrence).
Looking at actual dollars spent, rather than the share of all spending, Chilmark spent the most per capita on culture and recreation in fiscal 2007, with $507 per resident. Among communities of at least 30,000, the top spenders were Andover ($136), Cambridge ($130), and Newton ($106). Larger municipalities near the bottom of the list included Chelsea ($10), Revere ($14), and Lynn ($17).