October 25, 2012 by Sarah M
By Nick Halter
A proposed 2013 Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board budget would keep property taxes flat while cutting recreation center hours and reducing tree plantings.
The budget, which was proposed by Superintendent Jayne Miller, will be debated and changed by the nine-member Park Board before eventual approval on Dec. 12.
Miller said her budget reflects a “maintain what we have” directive given by Park Board commissioners at a budget retreat this summer. The board is keeping its total employment at about 464 full-time employees while keeping the tax levy at $46.3 million.
That’s not to say the Park Board couldn’t still raise taxes. The Minneapolis Board of Estimation and Taxation approved the Park Board’s request to raise its tax levy by a maximum of 3 percent.
Miller created a list of additional expenditures that the Park Board could add to the budget, but those additions would lead to tax increases.
Among those items is $219,000 for aquatic invasive species monitoring and enforcement. As local fishermen know, the Park Board began a program this summer that required boats launched at Minneapolis lakes to first undergo an inspection for zebra mussels.
That angered some boaters, who complained that since the Park Board didn’t staff the launches all day, they were restricted from a natural resource. Unless the Park Board raises taxes to bring back the program, those inspections will no longer be required for boat launches.
Seven recreation centers will have their hours reduced from 28 hours a week to 14 hours a week. Those seven rec centers have not been identified, but Miller’s budget says they will be smaller rec centers where programs can be re-located. The Park Board will also take into consideration the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood, and that “low income needs more service.”
This year, the Park Board funded the planting of 6,000 trees in the city. It was an unusually high number of tree plantings because the Park Board added 3,000 trees to the tornado-ravaged North Side.
This year, the Park Board will plant only 1,500 trees, under the proposed budget. That, according to Miller, would maintain the urban canopy in Minneapolis, not increase it. If Park Board commissioners want to raise taxes by about 1 percent, they could plant an additional 2,500 trees.
Under the proposed budget, Fuller Park in the Tangletown neighborhood would get $125,000 for a new playground.
The proposed budget includes almost no fee increases.
The Park Board will take public comment on the budget at 5 p.m. on Nov. 7 at the Park Board Headquarters, 2117 W. River Road.