Proposed 2016 MPRB Budget continues focus on fiscal responsibility, service delivery and maintaining park system within available resources

Public comment opportunities scheduled Nov. 4 and 18, Dec. 2 and 9

The Superintendent’s Recommended 2016 Budget for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) focuses on sound fiscal management, addresses increased park use and demands for programs and services, is responsive to changing demographics and needs of the community, and maintains the park system within available resources.

“The proposed budget includes the General Fund operating budget that reflects a 4 percent property tax increase and continues our focus on moving towards a financially sustainable funding model, supporting ongoing operations, and continuing implementation of operating efficiencies and targeted responsive service delivery to meet the changing demographic needs of our residents. It reflects the Park Board’s commitment to sound financial management and strategic long-term planning,” explained Superintendent Jayne Miller. “It also includes the third year of a special levy dedicated to the removal and replacement of infested and distressed ash trees and replanting of trees lost during storms to protect the city’s urban forest. The combined levies reflect a 4.4 percent property tax increase over 2015.”

In 2016, of every dollar Minneapolis residents pay for property taxes, eight cents will go to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

The Superintendent’s Recommended 2016 Budget totals $70,973,005 for the general operating fund, $1,743,242 for the special revenue fund dedicated to trees, $8,274,976 for the enterprise operating fund and $21,767,600 for capital project funding.

“In May, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was named the number one park system in the nation for the third year in a row by The Trust for Public Land. In July, the Park Board opened the Webber Natural Swimming Pool, the first public pool in North America to have a natural filtration system that uses biological filters, gravel and plants rather than chemicals to treat the water. In September, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board received its reaccreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA), which recognizes park and recreation agencies for excellence in operation and services. The Park Board is one of only five park agencies in Minnesota and one of only 144 in the United States that is CAPRA accredited,” said Miller. “It is because of the vision and commitment of those who have been here before us, and everyone who is committed to the Minneapolis park system today, that we received these prestigious honors and recognitions and continue to be at the forefront of new innovation. It’s a wonderful tribute to all the dedication and hard work over our 132 year history.”

The proposed budget and related documents are available for viewing at www.minneapolisparks.org/budget or by calling 612-230-6400 between 8 am–4:30 pm. The public may comment on the proposed budget during the following times:

  • Nov. 4, Public Comment Session – Administration and Finance Committee meeting
    MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis
    The Committee meeting will follow the Board’s regular meeting, which begins at 5 pm.
  • Nov. 18, Public Comment Session – Regular Board meeting
    MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis
    5 pm
  • Dec. 2, Administration & Finance Committee Approval of 2016 Budget
    MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis
    Comments may be made during 5:30 pm regularly scheduled Open Time session.
  • Dec. 9, Public Hearing and Board Approval of 2016 Budget – City of Minneapolis public hearing on 2016 tax levy and 2016 Budget
    City Hall, Council Chambers Room 317, 350 S Fifth St., Minneapolis
    6:05 pm

According to Miller, organizational performance initiatives implemented in the past several years, including equipment optimization and improved maintenance labor distribution, have resulted in $2.3 million in annual savings in specific operational areas, allowing for reallocation of those resources to other areas of need within the organization. She cautions however, that even with these operational savings and operational improvements and the 4.4 percent levy increase, there continues to be significant financial and service challenges facing the MPRB.

“The Park Board is committed to establishing long-term financial sustainability in operations and capital infrastructure. Despite significant budget reductions, efficiency improvements, and expansion of creative revenue generating opportunities, rising costs and increased park usage continue to strain our ability to meet all of the demands placed on the park system,” Miller explained. “Couple the operational pressures with the continued under-funding of park capital infrastructure; the MPRB has reached a critical juncture requiring significant attention to address the gap between available resources and the demand on and needs of the park system.”

Key financial challenges include inadequate funding for general park maintenance and for delivery of quality recreation services, particularly youth services. The proposed 2016 budget includes initiatives to identify standard service levels for park maintenance and continue assessing community needs at recreation centers.

Other key financial challenges include minimum wage increases, Affordable Care Act impacts, rising health care costs, and inflationary increases, especially in construction costs.

The proposed budget also continues to address staff capacity issues and past operating budget reductions that negatively impact service delivery. The MPRB currently has 18% fewer employees or the equivalent of 108 full-time employees than it did in 2003. The 2016 proposed budget includes staff increases to meet basic organizational and service delivery needs.

Initiatives and changes for 2016 include:

  • Asset Management – additional parkkeeper; additional staffing for Webber Natural Swimming Pool and Ice Rink; funding to address critical mechanical issues at North Commons waterpark; additional plumber position to address increased service demands for emergency, corrective and preventative maintenance of aging MPRB plumbing infrastructure
  • Athletic Programs & Aquatics – add athletic program manager position; funding for recruitment and retention of seasonal lifeguards; expand swimming lessons at beaches; adjust seasonal aquatic staff wages; add open swim event; align hours of Lupient Waterpark with other MPRB aquatic facilities; eliminate end-of-season tournament while expanding end-of-season jamborees for 10U sports
  • Communications and Marketing – funding to complete MPRB’s historical archival work
  • Community Outreach – develop Equity Plan in 2016 to continue important racial equity and inclusion work; savings from operating efficiencies
  • Customer Service – alignment of revenues to expenditures between department’s general fund and enterprise fund activities; parking fee increases to fund new parking signage system wide and pay station replacements
  • Environmental Management – additional funds for Webber Natural Swimming Pool water quality monitoring; increased seasonal gardener staffing at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden; variety of administrative cost savings; environmental education program expansion with additional revenue; funds for expanded water quality testing sites, including additional revenue
  • Finance – add clerical position for centralized requisition processing to streamline process and free up non-finance staff to perform key job functions; savings from other operating efficiencies
  • Forestry – reduce tree purchases, planting and stump grinding from 8,900 to 8,050 trees to address delayed and necessary pruning of trees; funding for Forestry Preservation position
  • Golf – small maintenance budget for Meadowbrook Golf while course is under construction in 2016; budget for nine holes of golf at Hiawatha in 2016 while MPRB awaits engineering data on groundwater conditions at course; tiered fees based upon course quality, location and customer base; new point of sale/tee-time reservation system 
  • Human Resources – add training and professional development position to coordinate training programs for staff with partial offset from a reduction in consultant training and development services work
  • Park Police – expand park patrol agent hours and convert one park patrol agent from part time to full time; update police administration fee to cover full cost of park police services for permitted special events; savings in equipment and clerical position
  • Recreation Centers & Programs – expand part-time staffing for building rentals; fund outdoor supervision at Webber Natural Swimming Pool; eliminate Nite Owlz at Whittier Park; revamp awards programs at centers; funding for costs associated with implementing workforce stabilization efforts in recreation centers
  • Youth Development – expand Street Reach program with addition of part-time Street Reach staff and full-time Youth Development Supervisor position; expand Rec Plus childcare program

In 2016, there are no fee increases for the vast majority of activities, permits and programs. There are market-rate increases for select activities and services.

Prior to her recommended 2016 budget presentation to the Board, Miller presented a report on “Closing the Gap: Investing in Neighborhood Parks” that stressed the need to address the growing funding shortfall for neighborhood park capital and maintenance.

“The parks are the gems of the city but capital investments and funds for maintaining the parks, particularly the neighborhood parks, have not kept pace with the growing use of, and demands on, the park system,” Miller said. “Since becoming Superintendent five years ago, there have been tremendous efforts by the Board and the staff to address this issue, but we are facing a stark reality; unless we deal with the growing capital and maintenance shortfall, neighborhood parks will continue to deteriorate.” 

Closing the Gap: Investing in Neighborhood Parks

An initiative of the Superintendent and Commissioners, “Closing the Gap: Investing in Neighborhood Parks” looks at impacts the age of the park system and deferred maintenance and capital investments has had on the 157 neighborhood parks in Minneapolis. Throughout the year, the MPRB has been sharing information with residents and partners about current condition and service level of neighborhood parks. The MPRB has also been gathering information from residents and partners on their investment priorities for replacement, operating and maintenance of existing park assets.

The October 21 report to Commissioners is available at www.minneapolisparks.org/closingthegap.

Major findings of the Closing the Gap report include:

  • Neighborhood parks have the greatest number of physical assets that require greater resources to operate, maintain and replace. Annual capital investment needs are $14.3 million, plus rate of inflation. Currently $4 – $5 million in capital investments is made annually, resulting in a $9.3 million annual capital investment gap. In addition, there is a currently a $3 million annual park maintenance and care gap, plus rate of inflation, to meet industry standards for mowing, building maintenance, tree pruning, roof repairs and path repairs alone.
  • Extensive community engagement took place and featured a variety of methods: resident phone survey, community meetings, intercept events, online and paper survey, and stakeholder meetings. Communication tools included informational materials, web site, and a range of notification methods (news releases, media coverage, emails, stakeholder contacts, advertisements in local papers). Community engagement was conducted in collaboration with two other separate, but intertwined MPRB initiatives: RecQuest, an in-depth look at recreation centers, and Service Area Master Plans, a look at the outdoor facilities within each park.
  • When it comes to the community’s funding ideas and strategies, sponsorships, donations, additional vendors/concessions and partnerships were supported across engagement methods. Support was typically accompanied with desire to ensure sponsors, donors, vendors and partners are well matched to the mission and values of the parks system. An increase in property taxes was also supported across the engagement methods. Support for                          maintaining system was higher than support for enhancing it. Morris Leatherman Company, which conducted the resident phone survey, indicated resident responses revealed judicious improvements or expansion would be seen as part of a greater “maintenance” effort.
  • The most common theme to emerge related to programs and services, an across all engagement methods, was support for youth programming and sports. Respondents of the resident survey and online/paper survey also indicated police protection was important. Adventure recreation and adult programs and sports were typically least important among these respondents. Community meetings and intercept respondents expressed need for diversity in, and different of, programs. Also articulated need for more programming that is customized to demographics of a community.
  • Across many engagement methods, participants expressed the need to make recreation centers more welcoming, comfortable and safe. Recommendations ranged from providing working air conditioning to amenities such as coffee kiosks. Online/paper survey and community meetings provided insights into what else is needed at recreation centers. Gymnasia and fitness areas were most commonly identified. Insufficient space was also a common theme.
  • Residents’ needs and perceptions of outdoor assets and facilities varied by engagement method and location of the city. Common theme that emerged across community meetings and online/paper surveys was the introduction of more natural areas, paths, nature play, gardens and trees in neighborhood parks. The importance of restrooms, functioning drinking fountains, and benches was raised in each service area during community meetings

Superintendent Miller also shared information from the Closing the Gap: Private and Public Funding Strategies for Neighborhood Parks and the Feasibility Report from Trust for Public Land. Park Board Commissioners are expected to discuss Closing the Gap findings this fall and make a decision in December 2015 regarding a solution for neighborhood park funding.

Contact

Dawn Sommers
Communications and Marketing Director
612-230-6407 office | 612-221-9155 cell
dsommers@minneapolisparks.org