Civic beat: Park Board budget

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October 26, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes
Parks’ 2010 budget would be smaller, keep 36 vacancies

Because of the economy and cuts to local-government aid, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s 2010 budget looks like it will shrink from 2009.

In a proposal by Superintendent Jon Gurban, unveiled Oct. 21, about 36 already empty positions would continue to remain vacant. That amounts to a 7 percent drop in Park Board personnel from the 2009 budget. But it also avoids layoffs, Gurban said, unless a vacancy begins to create serious problems. If one department needs to hire more personnel, other departments might have to absorb a hit — but that would only happen “if things change dramatically,” he said.

The board is expecting an additional $1.8 million generated from property taxes. That’s offset, however, by a $2.4 million cut to local-government aid. With a 16.5 percent increase in health-care costs, the board’s budget would actually end up about half a percent smaller than in 2009.

Gurban also laid out several strategies for 2010, including no fee increases, generating more revenue from the annual Minneapolis Bike Tour and improving the parks’ parking systems — a change that’s estimated to bring in $75,000 in new revenue. Gurban also suggested continuing to seek enactment of the long-in-development park dedication fee, which would charge developers to create or manage green space.

The board will take public input on the budget during a 5 p.m. meeting Nov. 18 at its headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. Adoption of the budget is expected on Dec. 7.

Gurban’s entire proposal is at bit.ly/1WtxsQ.

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Plan for ‘walkable city’ adopted by City Council


The City Council on Oct. 16 adopted a pedestrian master plan. The 92-page document touches on issues such as promoting walking, clearing sidewalks after snowstorms, maintaining boulevard trees and improving pedestrian infrastructure.

It’s split into seven specific goals — from goal one, a well-connected walkway system, to goal seven, how to find funding for improvements. The document lays out ways to overcome barriers for people with disabilities — the pedestrian system isn’t 100 percent accessibility currently, according to the document — and for dealing with traffic lights and pedestrians. For example, could some intersections use more time for pedestrians to comfortably cross the street?

Just before the plan was approved, several council members chimed in with some additions. Several ideas from Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward), including continuing the coordination of the annual sidewalk repair program and supporting arts partnerships to enhance walkways, were adopted. So was a proposal from Council Member Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward) that puts an emphasis on high pedestrian-traffic areas for sidewalk snow clearing.

Council Member Robert Lilligren (6th Ward), who himself doesn’t own a car, said the document likely will undergo further changes as time goes on. But it’s a good place to start, he said, and a sign that “we do want this to be a walkable city.”

The plan was approved 12-0. Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) was out sick.

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What is up with property taxes?


After years of annual property tax increases — and with a proposed 11.3 percent hike being considered this year — an upcoming event aims to answer, “What’s up with that?”

City Finance Director Pat Born and city Budget Director Heather Johnston will discuss the city’s property tax structure, as well as how the annual rates are determined, at a public forum. There will be time for questions from the audience.

“What’s up with those property taxes?” — scheduled for 6–8 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater — is sponsored by the Lowry Hill Neighborhood Association. Janet Hallaway, association president, said in a news release that neighbors recently have been asking a lot of questions about their taxes.

“We’re not encouraging a particular point of view. Residents can make their own determination about taxes,” Hallaway said. “We just want them to be better informed.”

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Hallaway, 237-8980, or Anita Tabb, 377-6926.