In the City of Jackson, the discussion at city hall involves cutting police and fire by as many as 35 positions while the city runs two public pools that are swimming in red ink.
Jackson is among many cities in the state that operates recreational opportunities - at a loss - while other core services are put on the chopping block.
According to the city's budget, Jackson lost about $132,000 in 2008-09 by operating its two pools. The city also lost another $7,500 on its golf center. Jackson owns one 18-hole golf course, but its expenses are grouped in with the maintenance of the 530-acre Ella Sharp Park, said Brandon Ransom, the city's parks, recreation and grounds director.
Ransom said the city was trying to balance cultural and quality of life opportunities with core services like police and fire.
"If all you have is police and firemen riding around ... without cultural opportunities that add to the quality of life, then you have a void in the community," Ransom said.
Ransom said the city did raise $39,000 in private donations to help pay for the pools' expenses.
But James Hohman, policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said local government should get out of the entertainment business.
"They are responsible for protecting residents, not for ensuring that they have golf facilities," Hohman said. "They are subsidizing these leisure activities while looking for savings in their core services."
According to the Jackson Citizen Patriot, the Jackson police union has suggested privatizing some of the city-owned pools as part of a plan to save $1 million and avoid police layoffs.
"We're getting to the point where the city decides if it wants niceties and fun stuff or police and firefighters," Shane LaPorte, union president for the Police Officers Labor Council, told the Jackson Citizen Patriot. The Jackson newspaper reported that city manager Warren Renando proposed a plan that would merge the police and fire departments and also cut the police force by 25 positions and the fire department by 10 positions.