Parks update: 2010 budget

Proposed 2010 parks budget would be smaller, keep 36 vacancies

Because of the economy and cuts to local-government aid, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s 2010 budget looks like it will shrink from 2009.

In a proposal by Superintendent Jon Gurban, unveiled Oct. 21, about 36 already empty positions would continue to remain vacant. That amounts to a 7 percent drop in Park Board personnel from the 2009 budget. But it also avoids layoffs, Gurban said, unless a vacancy begins to create serious problems. If one department needs to hire more personnel, other departments might have to absorb a hit — but that would only happen “if things change dramatically,” he said.

The board is expecting an additional $1.8 million generated from property taxes. That’s offset, however, by a $2.4 million cut to local-government aid. With a 16.5 percent increase in health-care costs also expected, the board’s budget would actually end up about half a percent smaller than in 2009.

Gurban also laid out several strategies for 2010, including no fee increases, generating more revenue from the annual Minneapolis Bike Tour and improving the parks’ parking systems — a change that’s estimated to bring in $75,000 in new revenue. Gurban also suggested continuing to seek enactment of the long-in-development park dedication fee, which would charge developers to create or manage green space.

The board will take public input on the budget during a 5 p.m. meeting Nov. 18 at its headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. Adoption of the budget is expected on Dec. 7.

Gurban’s entire proposal is at bit.ly/1WtxsQ.

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Superintendent’s contract likely to get extension

The Park Board is expected to offer Superintendent Jon Gurban a one-year contract extension that would keep him in place through at least June 30, 2011.

Commissioners debated at an open meeting Oct. 22 whether to retain Gurban, who was hired in 2003 amid relative controversy after neither applying nor screening for the job. Several wondered aloud whether to pass the issue of Gurban’s future onto the next set of commissioners — at least three seats will be held by new people after the Nov. 3 election — but the idea that that would be too much for a new board to immediately deal with ultimately prevailed. A superintendent search can take about a year; Gurban’s contract is up in less than eight months.

The superintendent issue has been a topic of conversation on the campaign trail this year. Some Park Board candidates have been coy to lean either way on Gurban, while others have openly supported starting a search for a new leader.

Commissioners including Southwest’s Bob Fine and Tracy Nordstrom acknowledged that Gurban hasn’t had the most positive image in the public. But they said he has more than come through on what the board has asked him to take charge of, including the creation of a comprehensive plan and bringing more diversity to the parks system.

Only Commissioner Annie Young appeared to openly differ in view. Choking up, she said there are labor-related issues within the system that haven’t been resolved. President Tom Nordyke, after hearing a consensus of support for a contract extension, was expected to meet with Gurban to work out details. The full board will vote on the superintendent’s fate at its Nov. 4 meeting.

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Meeting will address Lake Calhoun’s future

Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom’s long-in-the-works meeting on the status of Lake Calhoun has finally found a date: It will be held Nov. 5 from 6:30–8 p.m. at Lyndale Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S.

While lengthy public input on the lake already was taken more than a decade ago during the creation of the Chain of Lakes Comprehensive Plan, little change has occurred at Calhoun. That’s because the funding hasn’t been available.

While the money situation isn’t looking like it will improve anytime soon, Nordstrom said her goal is to get people back up to speed on what the comprehensive plan lays out and to see whether new trends or interests exist. Park Board staff, as well as frequent lake users, will be at the meeting to provide context and updates.