The following article by Eric Roper was published September 14 in the Star Tribune:
Minneapolis Park Board warns of funding shortfalls ahead
Neighborhood rec centers and parks are “heart and soul” of system, director says, but costs are rising faster than city dollars.
Bohanon Park in north Minneapolis needs building fixes, sidewalk improvements and playground upgrades.
Photo: Eric Roper, Star Tribune
Minneapolis park officials say the city’s nationally renowned park system is at risk of deteriorating rapidly unless more money is committed to repair aging facilities.
Even with modest tax levy increases, the city’s semi-independent Park Board envisions the gap between available money and needed expenses growing from $5.4 million next year to nearly $9 million by 2019.
The system’s superintendent, Jayne Miller, said they are juggling a higher demand for services and rising health care costs with the growing maintenance needs at neighborhood recreation centers, playgrounds and wading pools — some of which are half a century old.
“If we continue down the path that has been kind of laid for our neighborhood parks, if we don’t figure out how to invest in them, that’s going to be unacceptable to this community,” Miller said. “The neighborhood parks are the heart and soul of this community and are the heart and soul of the parks system.”
Park officials’ desire for more money is likely to test how much Minneapolis residents value having the best parks vs. how much they are willing to pay for them.
Minneapolis residents are already seeing the pressure for more park money in the city’s 2015 property tax levy. The Park Board’s request for $2 million more in property tax money next year was one of two primary drivers behind Mayor Betsy Hodges’ proposed $6.7 million levy increase.
The Park Board’s general fund budget was about $66 million in 2014.