Park Board looking for feedback on budget plans

The Minneapolis park system has proposed a 2009 budget with a General Fund of $58 million, and Park Board officials are looking for input on their plans.

Parks Superintendent Jon Gurban said the budget reflects challenges of rising expenses and limited property tax increases. The budget includes an increase in the hourly parking fees and an increase in the annual parking pass for the regional parking system.

“[The budget] also takes into account that during these tough economic times, the public’s need for park services and programs is likely to increase,” Gurban said in a statement. “In 2009, the parks are expected to be busier than ever.”

Park staff anticipate that the downturn in the economy will prompt residents to heavily use parks for cheap entertainment and take advantage of programs that provide affordable day care and teen employment. Consequently, the budget strategy focuses on maintaining existing services and programming, despite the weak economy.

“This is not the time to propose major program cuts or building closures to balance the budget,” states the superintendent’s budget. “The Park Board is the only public agency in Minneapolis that has not resorted to reducing public safety or closing facilities over the last five years. Much of this discipline to serve the public comes from the shift to a district based management system five years ago that assures decision making is taking place as close to the customer as possible.”

The recommended budget would place in reserve a one-time $774,000 infusion of state aid. The budget plan would temporarily not fill 15 vacant positions until mid-year, when local and state economic conditions are known and the impact to the Park Board can be determined. (The Park Board anticipates that the state will see a $2 billion budget deficit for the next biennium.) The board is advised to continue a “no layoff” policy for 2009, if possible.

The proposed budget is available at www.minneapolisparks.org. On the Park Board website, click “About MPRB,” and then click “Park Board Budget.”
The public has two upcoming opportunities to provide input on the budget. An Administration and Finance Committee Meeting of the Board will take place Wednesday, Nov. 5 at the Park Board headquarters, located at 2117 West River Rd. The committee meeting will follow the board’s regular meeting at 5 p.m.

The city of Minneapolis will also host a Truth in Taxation public hearing at 5:05 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 1 at the City Council Chambers in Room 317 of City Hall.
The Park Board budget is scheduled to be adopted at 5:05 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11 at the City Council Chambers.