There are things that a city cannot do without. Police, fire and ambulance service are on the list, along with schools, streets and sewers.

All of those essential services have seen budget cuts in Portland over the last three years, as the national recession has taken its toll.

But not every budget has been cut. Two of the city’s recreational facilities, Riverside Municipal Golf Course and the Portland Ice Arena, have lost money, meaning that Portland taxpayers have picked up the difference between operating costs and revenue generated.

In another economic situation, this could be a tolerable expense for providing community amenities that make life a little more comfortable. But in times like these, asking everyone to pay so that a few can play doesn’t make much sense.

The City Council’s finance committee is considering a proposal by a private firm interested in managing Riverside. If that takes the rest of the city off the hook for cost overruns, taking that offer makes a lot of sense. So would finding a similar management deal with other city-owned facilities like the ice arena.

People who use these services are likely to complain that private management may end up in higher user fees. While that may be true, this is a question of priorities. The budgets don’t get any easier to balance and the city needs to look for savings wherever it can.