Park cuts start, Harriet rink spared for now

The Lake Harriet ice rink is saved for now, sans warming house.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's administration and finance committee cut $1.8 million from its budget, leaving intact most of the recommendations made by Superintendent Mary Merrill Anderson.

Anderson had proposed roughly $2 million in cuts, giving commissioners some wiggle room to add back some items.

Commissioners disagreed on a proposed mowing cut ($75,000), cutting one recreation district supervisor ($78,000) and eliminating one Jump-In brochure ($32,250), which publicizes neighborhood park programs. It reinstated those items in the budget.

The committee added $32,000 for a new grant-writing position to help raise money.

Anderson proposed cutting $290,000 by eliminating seven permanent Park Keeper positions, and replacing them with five seasonal workers. The committee left the cuts intact, adding one more. It eliminated the warming house at Brackett Park, 38th Avenue South and East 28th Street, leaving what it calls a “maintenance only” rink. It used the Brackett savings to keep Lake Harriet as a maintenance-only rink.

The Park Board was expected to vote on the cuts Wednesday, Dec. 18, after finalizing its budget with the city. That vote came after the Journal's deadline.

With looming state budget problems, the Park Board will likely have to make more cuts, commissioners said. The Board had anticipated roughly $13.8 million, or 30 percent of its tax money, from a state program called Local Government Aids. Most anticipated that state aid will be cut by the 2003 legislature and governor.

Anderson's proposed cuts would eliminate several staff positions -- including one assistant superintendent. Maureen Durand, assistant superintendent of Recreation, retires in January. She would not be replaced, and other assistant superintendents would take her duties. That would save $100,000.

The plan also eliminates: the public information coordinator ($90,000); a landscape architect ($72,000); in-house architect/design service ($68,000); and a recreational leader ($51,000).

Other cuts in a long list of relatively small cuts include:

– $53,000 in part-time staff salaries by closing all recreation centers for two weeks; and

– $143,000 by reducing hours at the recreation centers open seven days a week, cutting them to five days a week in the summer.