Facing $3.5 million in cuts, the Park Board will also close beaches, eliminate toilets and turn off fountains
This year, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will:
Take a breath and get ready for more.
The Park Board cut $3.5 million from its 2003 budget March 19 and anticipates cutting an added $4 million from its 2004 budget later this year. That assumes a wage freeze, said Don Siggelkow, assistant superintendent of finance. If wages go up, the cuts will be deeper still.
The Park Board made 2003 cuts quickly and with minimal public input, Siggelkow said. It was spending its 2003 budget faster than it could afford. "Every day we don’t make a decision, the clock ticks away and the decisions get harder and harder," he said.
The board may reconsider some of its hastily made 2003 cuts. For instance, it proposed closing 24 of 52 wading pools, including all nine in Southwest south of Lake Street. The closings would save $50,000, but residents have called in protest, saying the wading pools were a traditional area for social gathering.
Rae Ann Vandeputte of Fulton has two kids, 1 and 4, and has been circulating flyers to preschools and a petition in the neighborhood to get the Park Board to reverse its decision. "I am on a mission," she said.
Southwest area wading pools are:
Michael Schmidt, assistant superintendent for maintenance, said Southwest pools were targeted for cuts because families can go to the lakes.
The Park Board President Bob Fine said he believes the board would overturn the cuts, but would have to cut $50,000 some place else. One possibility: eliminating one of the two milfoil harvesters, he said.
The board would reconsider the wading pool cut April 2 (after Journal press time) or Wednesday, April 9, Fine said. Wading pools open in mid- to late-May, park staff said.
In planning for the 2004 budget cuts, the Park Board would put all programs and services back on the table and have a broader community discussion of priorities, Siggelkow said.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed cuts in state support for regional parks and Local Government Aid — money received by the city and shared with the parks, parks staff said.
"The impact of the state’s budget deficit, coupled with our sluggish economy means that deep cuts must be made," Fine said.
By the end of 2004, the Park Board will have 17 percent less tax money to support parks than it did in 2002, if the Pawlenty plan passes, according to staff estimates.
The Park Board had 2002 tax revenues of $52.3 million, Siggelkow said. It expects tax revenues to drop to $47.2 million in 2003 and to $43.2 million in 2004.
Here are cuts of particular note to Southwest.
"We are down one full forestry crew. That is going to hurt," said Schmidt. "With tree planting and Dutch Elm disease, if there are any storms that require cleanup, I don’t have the ability to pull in a group of seasonal tree trimmers to take care of the problem."
Other items cut include roof and furnace repairs ($331,000); equipment purchases ($224,000); park maintenance ($111,000); training, education and travel ($108,000); legal services ($108,000); environmental education ($45,000); cell phones ($40,000) and mounted patrol ($30,000).
Siggelkow said if state cuts are less than expected, or if the Park Board gets added savings from the hiring freeze, the top funding priorities would be reopening the wading pools, adding back chemical toilets, and increased milfoil harvesting.