Parks Plan Seeks to Avoid Tax Hike

The following article by Eric Roper and Steve Brandt was published in the March 16, 2016 issue of the Star Tribune.

Parks Plan Seeks to Avoid Tax Hike

Money to pay for repairs and maintenance at Minneapolis neighborhood parks can mostly come from existing city sources — and shouldn’t require a property tax hike through a fall parks referendum — according to two veteran City Council members.

Council President Barb Johnson and Council Member Lisa Goodman will take their case to the City Council on Wednesday, unveiling a proposal that would forge an unprecedented financial relationship between City Hall and the semi-independent Park Board — historically wary partners. But the plan is already drawing skepticism from other members of the council and Mayor Betsy Hodges who question whether the city has the money to cover the park expenses while also addressing other needs like a projected gap in road funding.

Johnson and Goodman say the city could devote an extra $8 million to reviving rec centers and other infrastructure in the city’s 157 local parks — which are distinct from the system’s larger regional parks — and an extra $3 million for operations, starting in 2017. The plan would rely on a 1 percent increase in the taxes collected by the Park Board and potential savings of more than $7 million that won’t be needed for pension obligations, among other possible sources.

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