Commission Makes Park Budget Recs

At its April 26, 2011 meeting, Ann Arbor’s park advisory commission (PAC) voted to recommend to the city council the staff-proposed parks and recreation budget for fiscal year 2012. The council will authorize the FY 2012 budget at its May 16 meeting. But the commission also passed a resolution asking the council to honor its promise to residents made in 2006, when voters approved a parks maintenance and capital improvements millage.

The proposed part of the budget for parks and recreation services includes savings from items like lower energy usage resulting from infrastructure energy improvements ($65,083) and eliminating underused computer software ($7,000). The parks and recreation part of the city’s roughly $80 million general fund budget is planned to be about $3.6 million.

Also part of PAC’s purview in the city budget is a portion of the field operations budget involving park operations. For park operations that are part of field operations, the city is expecting to achieve savings in the use of temporary labor to staff vacant positions ($158,248).

The promise to which the second PAC resolution refers is a measure passed by the city council in October 2006, setting forth an administrative policy, which reads in relevant part: “If future reductions are necessary in the City’s general fund budget, during any of the six years of this millage, beginning with Fiscal Year 2007-2008, the general fund budget supporting the parks and recreation system for that year will be reduced by a percentage no greater than the average percentage reduction of the total City general fund budget.” The policy was seen as important to assure voters that once the millage was passed, millage money would not replace general fund support for parks.

Based on city staff calculations, the portion of the city’s general fund in the proposed FY 2012 budget that supports parks would fall short of the 2006 administrative policy standard by $90,000. And some park commissioners objected to the fact that some of the money previously drawn from the general fund to support parks will now be drawn from the METRO fund. The METRO fund receives revenues that the state requires telecommunications companies to pay municipalities for use of the right-of-way. For purposes of the administrative policy, the city is counting the METRO funds that are supporting parks as part of the general fund.

So the second resolution passed by PAC called on the city council to adhere to the prevailing administrative policy. Julie Grand, PAC’s chair, was critical of the short notice that PAC had received on the funding change and the lack of opportunity for public comment to PAC on the issue. The city council’s public hearing on the FY 2012 budget is scheduled for May 2, as part of the city council’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at council chambers, 301 E. Huron St.

This brief was filed shortly after the Washtenaw County boardroom at 220 N. Main St. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow: [link]