2015 City Parks Budget–update

We’ve been poring over the City Parks budget, trying to make sense of differing spins on what’s increased, decreased, or even needed. Here’s what we see:
The Mayor’s budget for the Parks Department in 2014 appropriated $6,718,385 out of the General Fund, and did not have adequate money in it for watering the Parks. City Council took $1M out of reserves and set it aside for water to make up the difference. Fortunately, we had a very wet summer, and the reserve money was not spent.
This year, the Mayor’s budget for Parks included $5,597,477 out of the General Fund, and added $1.4 million from the Conservation Trust Fund, (which has historically been used for projects), for watering parks. Parks projects totaling $570,000, including updating playgrounds and court repairs, were taken off the schedule as a result.
City Council, in their budget markup session, took the Conservation Trust Fund money out of the watering line item of the budget and restored the playgrounds and some other projects. They did not address the issue of how to water the parks in case of a more typically dry year. Currently, the amount budgeted for watering parks in 2015 is $2.28 million. Estimated cost for watering parks in 2015 is $4.2 million.
City Council left the door open for “supplemental appropriation” if the weather isn’t cooperative. We would have preferred that they had taken “the next step” and added $1.4 million in general fund support for watering our parks. Instead, general fund support for the 2015 budget was below that of 2014 by $643,000.
City Council agreed with TOSC that Conservation Trust funds historically used for parks projects like improved playgrounds and tennis courts should NOT be used to water our parks.
There is still plenty of time for the public to weigh in. The official “1st reading” takes place Nov 10th, 2nd reading Nov 25th. If the Mayor vetoes council changes, they’ll have the opportunity to override his veto Dec. 9th.

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