November 8, 2012 by Sarah M
By Nick Halter
Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller on Wednesday released the names of the six Minneapolis recreation centers where she is proposing deep cuts to hours of operation.
Kenny, Lyndale Farmstead, Audubon, Corcoran, Brackett and Morris rec centers, under Miller’s budget, would only be open for 14 hours per week. Most of those centers are currently open 28 hours a week, though Commissioner Liz Wielinski said Audubon is open 39 hours per week.
Cutting the hours will save the Park Board $88,000. Some commissioners said they would like to restore funding for the rec centers before the budget was approved.
Commissioner Bob Fine said many residents identify their neighborhood by their rec center.
“It’s a central point of each neighborhood, so we have to think about where we are going when we reduce the number of hours,” he said.
The Park Board heard of the rec center hour reductions on the same night that one of its committee’s approved a $215,000 dog park project at Lyndale Farmstead Park.
Matt Perry has been a vocal opponent of the dog park budget, which has increased by $80,000 since last winter.
“(The) same meeting that approves a $215,000 dog park proposes to reduce hours at neighborhood parks,” he said in a message. “Priorities are upside down.”
Dog Park supporters, like Kingfield resident David Brauer, say permit revenue from dog park users cover dog park construction and still have money left over to help the city’s budget.
In 2009, city dog park revenue generated $207,000, and the parks only cost $50,000 to maintain.
The Park Board, on Wednesday, began debating on how to keep programs and projects while also holding property taxes flat.
Some commissioners are now saying that they favor raising taxes in order to maintain rec center hours, plant more trees and fund future capital projects.
Miller told the Park Board that it would need to plant 4,500 trees in 2013 to maintain the city’s urban canopy. She had budgeted for 1,500 trees, but said the Park Board miscalculated the number of trees needed to maintain the canopy.
Commissioner Scott Vreeland said he would like the Park Board to pursue a 3 percent tax hike, the maximum levy increase allowed by the Minneapolis Board of Estimation and Taxation.
Park Board President John Erwin said he also supports a tax increase in order to maintain programming and to give pay raises to employees.
“A zero percent levy increase is not acceptable. I think it will detrimental to this institution for the reasons I mentioned,” Erwin said. “So I am going to be supporting some levy increase, the question is just how much.”
Commissioner Anita Tabb said she was uneasy about supporting a tax hike.
“I don’t know that I will be supportive of that,” she said.
Park Board Commissioner Brad Bourn asked Miller if Park Board employees would be given a raise, and if so, how much.
The Park Board will take public comment on its budget on Nov. 28 at the Park Board Headquarters, 2117 West River Road.