Via an October 23 e-newsletter from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board:
PROPOSED 2015 MINNEAPOLIS PARK BOARD BUDGET CONTINUES FOCUS ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, SERVICE DELIVERY AND MAINTAINING PARK SYSTEM
The Superintendent’s Recommended 2015 Budget for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) focuses on maintaining park services and facilities, strategically addressing financial and operational challenges, improving organizational efficiency and service delivery, and addressing Emerald Ash Borer and other threats to the urban tree canopy.
“The proposed budget includes the General Fund operating budget that reflects a 4 percent property tax increase and focuses on establishing a financially sustainable funding model, supporting ongoing operations, addressing threats to the urban tree canopy, continuing our work on equity across the park system, including racial equity, and implementing organizational changes that will improve efficiency and enhance service delivery. It reflects the MPRB’s commitment to sound financial management and strategic long-term planning,” explained Superintendent Jayne Miller. “It also includes the second year of a special levy dedicated to the removal and replacement of infested and distressed ash trees and replanting of trees lost during storms. The combined levies reflect a 4.9 percent property tax increase over 2014.”
In 2015, of every dollar Minneapolis residents pay for property taxes, eight cents will go to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The Superintendent’s Recommended 2015 Budget totals $68,241,007 for the general operating fund, $1,445,500 for the special revenue fund dedicated to trees, $7,858,849 for the enterprise operating fund and $11,462,000 for capital project funding.
“In June, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was named the number one park system in the nation for the second year in a row and earned the another “five park bench” rating on The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore® index,” said Miller. “It is because of the vision and commitment of those who have been here before us, and everyone who is committed to the Minneapolis park system today, that we received this prestigious honor from The Trust for Public Land. It’s a wonderful tribute to all the dedication and hard work over our 131 year history and a great responsibility to continue that work moving forward.”
The proposed budget and related documents are available for viewing at www.minneapolisparks.org/budget or by calling 612-230-6400.
The public may comment on the proposed budget during the following times:
•Nov. 5, Public Comment Session – Administration and Finance Committee meeting, MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis. The Committee meeting will follow the Board’s regular meeting at 5 pm.
•Nov. 19, Public Comment Session – Regular Board meeting, MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis, at 5 pm.
•Dec. 10, Public Hearing and Board Approval of 2015 Budget – City of Minneapolis public hearing on 2015 tax levy and 2015 Budget, City Hall, Council Chambers Room 317, 350 South 5th Street, Minneapolis, at 6:05 pm.
According to Miller, organizational performance initiatives implemented in 2012-2014, including equipment optimization and improved labor distribution in forestry and maintenance, have resulted in $2.3 million in annual savings. She cautions however, that even with these operational savings and the 4.9 percent levy increase, there are significant financial and service challenges facing the MPRB.
“The Park Board is committed to establishing long-term financial sustainability in operations and capital infrastructure. Despite significant budget reductions, efficiency improvements, and expansion of creative revenue generating opportunities, rising costs and increased usage continue to strain our ability to meet all of the demands placed on the park system,” Miller explained. “Couple the operational pressures with the continued under-funding of park capital infrastructure; the MPRB has reached a critical juncture requiring significant attention to address the gap between available resources and the demand on and needs of the park system.”
Key financial challenges include inadequate funding for general park maintenance and for delivery of quality recreation services, particularly youth services. The proposed 2015 budget includes initiatives to identify standard service levels for park maintenance and an assessment of community needs at recreation centers.
Other key financial challenges include minimum wage increases, Affordable Care Act impacts, rising health care costs, and inflationary increases, especially in construction costs.
The proposed budget also begins to address staff capacity issues and past operating budget reductions that negatively impact service delivery. The MPRB currently has 19% fewer employees, or the equivalent of 115 full-time employees, than it did in 2003. The 2015 proposed budget includes staff increases to begin to meet basic organizational needs.
Initiatives and changes for 2015 include:
•Asset Management – establish trades apprentice program, add operations and maintenance for Webber Natural Filtration Pool and Ice Rink
•Communications and Marketing – continue enhancements of new MPRB website, add writer
•Community Outreach – expand racial equity work
•Customer Service – add customer service representative to enhance call response times, eliminate summer seasonal staffing and operations of the Longfellow House Visitor’s Center
•Environmental Management – enhance regional service area maintenance funding, add Webber pool water quality monitoring, add part-time staffing for Lyndale Park gardens, expand environmental education staff
•Forestry – purchase expanded variety of trees, collaborate with City of Minneapolis to develop Tree Preservation position
•Human Resources – add three positions to meet needs of organization
•Park Police – add two police officers, expand patrol hours
•Recreation – ◦Athletic Programs & Aquatics – add funding for recreational operations at Webber Natural Filtration Pool and Ice Rink, expand Lake Nokomis open swim program with additional day
◦Golf – pursue FEMA and other recovery funding for rain and storm damage to Hiawatha and Meadowbrook courses, with likely continued closure of both courses through 2015
◦Recreation Centers & Programs – launch MPRB scholarship program and, based on data reflecting low visitation time periods, adjust all recreation building hours as follows:
■ During May and late August, adjust recreation center opening time to 3 pm versus noon to coincide with Minneapolis Public School schedule
■ On Saturdays, adjust hours at 17 recreation centers to close at 4 pm versus 6 pm; Nite Owlz evening program for teens will continue as in 2014 at same sites with same hours
■ On Fridays, close recreation centers at 6 pm versus 9 pm; Nite Owlz evening program for teens will continue as in 2014 at same sites with same hours
◦Youth Development – expand Pop Up Parks program, expand full-day summer camps and Freedom School, expand Recreation Plus program, add Therapeutic Recreation position
In 2015, there are no fee increases for the vast majority of activities, permits and programs. There are market-rate increases for select activities and services.
Following her recommended budget presentation to the Board, Miller stressed the need to address the growing funding shortfall for neighborhood park capital.
“The parks are the gems of the city but capital investments for maintaining the parks, particularly the neighborhood parks, have not kept pace with the growing use of, and demands on, the park system,” Miller said. “Since becoming Superintendent four years ago, there have been tremendous efforts by the Board and the staff to address this issue, but we are facing a stark reality; unless we deal with the growing capital shortfall, the parks will continue to deteriorate.”