Commissioners approve 4.1 percent levy increase for 2018

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted Dec. 6 to approve a 4.1 percent increase to its certified tax levy for its 2018 budget.

The budget relies on a Park and Recreation Levy of $60.45 million, a 4.2 percent increase over this year’s $58 million levy, and a Tree Preservation and Reforestation Levy of $1.75 million, a 1.2 percent increase over this year’s levy of $1.73 million. The latter is a special levy to restore the city’s tree canopy due to Emerald Ash Borer infestation and storms.

The budget continues major investments into the city’s neighborhood parks that started in this year’s budget, which reflected the board’s largest property tax increase in at least a decade. Last year, the Park Board launched the 20 Year Neighborhood Park Plan, a funding agreement with the City Council to direct an additional $11 million annually to Minneapolis parks. City and park leaders crafted the plan to close annual funding gaps in maintaining the city’s nearly 160 neighborhood parks, which have faced growing disrepair in recent decades.

Over the past year, outgoing Superintendent Jayne Miller and staff created an equity matrix via ordinance that will direct funds raised from the plan to racially concentrated areas of poverty and other areas that have not seen as much investment.

“The [Park Board] is the first and only park agency in the country to require, by ordinance, its entire Capital Improvement Program use specific, transparent, data-driven measures to ensure racial and economic equity are accounted for in funding allocation,” Miller said in a statement. “The [Park Board] is committed to addressing the challenges to ensure quality facilities and quality delivery of park and recreation services to Minneapolis residents and park users. This budget supports, as best as is possible within the resources available, the continuation of this important work.”

In 2018, the Park Board will have a general operating fund of $80.7 million, along with $20.9 million in capital project funding, $11.2 million for its enterprise operating fund — its funding for golf, restaurants and other business-like operations — and $3.1 million in special revenue funding.

There are several changes in the 2018 budget to hire new staff, including an archivist, two software and database support positions, four part-time police officers, a street outreach coordinator and a part-time office support worker for the board’s planning department. There is also money allocated to training the six newly elected commissioners coming to the board in January.

This will be the last budget put together by Miller, who recently announced she is leaving the Park Board in February for a job in Pennsylvania. Miller has led the city’s park system as superintendent since being appointed seven years ago.

“This year was truly a banner year for recognizing the vision and commitment of those at the Park Board who have been here before us and everyone who is committed to the Minneapolis park system today,” Miller said.

Despite dramatic tax increases to bring in more maintenance dollars, the Park Board faces financial challenges with a municipal minimum wage ordinance that takes effect in 2018 and a cut in state funding for the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund that will cost the board $1 million per year beginning in 2019.