Parks update // 2011 budget introduced

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff presented the superintendent’s $60 million proposed budget to commissioners Oct. 20 at the organization’s administrative headquarters, 2117 W. River Road.

The 119-page financial document lays out the board’s strategic direction through 2013 and lists myriad service expenses and planned capital projects. The most significant planned expenditures are in maintenance ($16.5 million), recreation ($11.2 million) and forestry ($10 million).

All of those numbers are down from last year, a trend carried throughout many other departments. Personnel expenses are also down following the Park Board’s elimination of 21 employees this fall. At the same time, the budget shows a nearly $3 million jump in neighborhood capital expenditures from two years ago, which staff said reflects a commitment to infrastructure upkeep.  

Interim Superintendent David Fisher, who led the budget’s development, said the shifts in funding priorities were challenging, but they should result in a more sustainable organization and park system.

“Sizing our organization to a sustainable level and increasing our funding for capital improvements has been a very difficult transition, but also a very necessary one,” Fisher wrote in his budget message to commissioners.

The budget also plans for $7.6 million in Local Government Aid (LGA), which is $2.7 million short of what the state certified. LGA has been reduced mid-year for the past three years and could be in jeopardy again as the state faces a $6 billion deficit.  

“Unfortunately we only know what we know, and we will have to be prepared for additional challenges should our LGA be further reduced,” said Karen Robinson, the Park Board’s assistant superintendent of administration.

The Park Board will discuss the budget again Nov. 3 and make a presentation to the Minneapolis City Council’s Ways and Means Committee Nov. 4.

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Contract approved for new superintendent

The Park Board approved a three-year contract Oct. 20 for new superintendent Jayne Miller, who started officially Nov. 1.

Miller, a veteran of parks management from Ann Arbor, Mich., is expected to work up to three days a week through the end of the year and full-time after that. She will earn $142,000 annually.

Interim Superintendent David Fisher’s contract ended in October, but he planned to help Miller transition. He will also stay involved in the Park Board’s recently launched riverfront design competition.

During Fisher’s four-month tenure, the organization went through an unprecedented restructuring that resulted in the Park Board’s first-ever layoffs. Commissioners thanked him for navigating the Park Board through hard times and welcomed the organization’s new leader. The board voted unanimously to hire Miller Oct. 13.

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Busting buckthorn

Nonprofit parks advocacy group People for Parks purchased six weed wrenches to help the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) and the Audobon Chapter of Minneapolis remove buckthorn at William Berry Woods and Roberts Bird Sanctuary.

The group invites anyone interested in lending a hand to join the effort Oct. 30 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at William Berry Woods, 3810 Richfield Road, and at the same time Nov. 30 at Roberts Bird Sanctuary, 4124 Roseway Road. All ages are welcome, though supervision of children is required. For more information, call Connie Pepin at 922-1253.