Stories indexed with the term ‘parks funding’

Park Commission Briefed on Millage Renewal

Ann Arbor park advisory commission meeting (March 20, 2012): At their monthly meeting, park advisory commissioners were briefed on two millages that help fund Ann Arbor’s park system, including one that will likely be on the November ballot for renewal.

Ducks in West Park

Creatures in West Park will not be able to participate in the November millage vote, even though they apparently can get their ducks in a row. A parks millage that's up for renewal helped pay for some of the recent renovations to the park, including the boardwalk, bandshell plaza and entry stairs. (Photos by the writer.)

The park maintenance and capital improvements millage, a six-year tax, brings in about $5 million annually and accounts for about 45% of the parks budget – including the entire funding for the natural areas preservation (NAP) program. Voters will likely be asked to renew it at 1.1 mills from 2013-2018, assuming the city council votes to put the millage on the Nov. 6 ballot at that rate. PAC chair Julie Grand – who has served on a working group to strategize about the renewal – said concerns about the economic climate are a major reason why an increase isn’t being recommended.

During the millage discussion, city councilmember Mike Anglin said he supports the millage but has concerns about Fuller Park, noting that talks regarding Fuller Road Station aren’t over. Parks manager Colin Smith pointed out that no millage funds have been or would be spent on Fuller Road Station. Grand cautioned against connecting the millage renewal to Fuller Road Station, saying it’s important to inform the public clearly about what the renewal means.

To provide that information, the city plans to hold four public forums in April, and a public hearing on the millage will be scheduled for PAC’s April 17 meeting. The city also plans to launch a website in early April with more information about the millage.

Also at the March 20 meeting, commissioners got a mid-year update about the open space and parkland preservation millage, which funds the greenbelt program and park acquisitions. Fuller Road Station was a backdrop to this discussion too, when commissioner Gwen Nystuen asked about protections that are afforded land acquired through this millage.

Land acquisition also came up in two other contexts during the meeting. The future of property owned by MichCon – located north of Broadway Street, between the Huron River and the railroad tracks – was part of the discussion during an update on environmental cleanup at the site. A DTE Energy representative indicated that senior management sees the potential for redevelopment there, but no plans are finalized. It’s expected that DTE Energy, which owns the property through its MichCon subsidiary, will eventually sell the site.

And speaking during public commentary, Ann Arbor resident Larry Baird advocated for the city to acquire land to fill gaps in the Border-to-Border Trail, which roughly follows the Huron River. Specifically, he characterized a connection between Bandemer Park and Barton Nature Area as the top priority, and urged the city to focus more on this project than on high-speed rail.

In the agenda’s one action item, commissioners recommended awarding a $79,980 contract to Michigan Recreational Construction Inc. to handle renovations at Placid Way Park. The resolution also recommends an additional 10% contingency of $7,998 for a total project cost of $87,978. The 1.32-acre neighborhood park is located on the city’s north side near the larger Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area and Foxfire South Park. The project would be funded from the park maintenance and capital improvements millage. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Delays Budget Vote

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 16, 2011): Ann Arbor’s city charter requires that the city council amend and adopt a city budget by its second meeting in May. If it fails to act, by default the unamended budget proposed in April by the city administrator is adopted.


During public commentary, Sue Maguire addressed the council on the topic of proposed reductions to the fire department. (Photos by the writer.)

But Monday, at its second meeting in May this year, the city council did not act, choosing instead to recess and continue the meeting the following week, on May 23. The decision to delay was prompted by uncertainty about revenue from the public parking system. The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the city were poised to ratify a new agreement on parking revenue on May 2, but that agreement was put off when questions were raised about the DDA tax increment finance (TIF) capture. The DDA later called a special meeting on Friday, May 20 to address that issue.

Even though the council did not act on the budget, most of the evening’s discussion was dominated by budget talk, including extensive public commentary on the proposed cuts in the police and fire departments. The council also got a briefing from its chief of police and interim fire chief, Barnett Jones, who responded to an article published in about fire department response times, calling the calculations presented in the piece inaccurate.

In addition to putting off action on the FY 2012 budget, the council also tabled decisions on human services funding, funding for a water system study, and fee increases for next year.

However, the council did transact some business. It authorized an increase in taxicab fares in light of rising gas prices. The council also approved neighborhood stabilization funds for demolition of three houses on North Main Street to prepare the site for construction of the Near North affordable housing project. Two large vehicle purchases – a street sweeper and a sewer truck – that had been postponed from the previous meeting were authorized.

The council also revised its administrative policy on how the 2006 parks millage is to be spent. Funds outside the general fund can count as general fund money for the purpose of the policy, as long as those funds are not drawn from the parks millage. The council also gave initial approval to an ordinance on design guidelines for new buildings downtown. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Adopts “Parks Fairness” Measure

At its May 16, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council adopted a revision to the 2006 administrative policy that governs the use of the city’s parks capital improvements and maintenance millage, including how spending from the city’s general fund should support Ann Arbor’s parks.

A key point to the revision includes an additional provision that “for the purpose of this resolution all funds other than the Millage which are used to support Parks and Recreation system activities shall be considered the same as City’s General Fund support.” The proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 calls for using money from the METRO Act fund and the city’s stormwater fund to pay for certain parks operations, which the city would like to count as general fund support.

The new provision in the policy helps the city’s planned budget for FY 2012 conform with another administrative policy requirement – that the amount of general fund parks support not decrease any more than other parts of the general fund.

A further amendment would have changed the standard of general fund support from one that is based on hard dollars to one that is based on service levels, with FY 2011 as a baseline: “… [T]he General Fund budget supporting the Parks and Recreation system for that year may be reduced by a higher percentage than the average percentage reduction of the total City General Fund budget as long as the FY11 level of service within Parks and Recreation system is not materially reduced.”

That second amendment would have helped the city conform with the policy this year, because the proposed FY 2012 budget called for spending $90,000 less on parks than would otherwise be required if the administrative police were left unamended. The city contends that the $90,000 reduction in expenditures is due to increased efficiency and would not affect service standards.  [Chronicle coverage: "Council to Get Reminder of Parks Promise"]

However, that second amendment was stricken by the proposer of the resolution, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), who said he wanted to use the delay in the passage of the budget to find a way to make up the $90,000 differential – that would allow the city’s budget to conform with the policy without changing it.

The city council also revised the 2006 administrative policy during the FY 2010 budget cycle, so that millage funding for the natural area preservation program would not automatically increase by 3% every year.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Pot Laws Amended But Postponed Again

Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 2, 2011): The city council has postponed its final approval of two local medical marijuana laws at least until June 6. One law addresses zoning and the other handles licensing. With that postponement, the council stretched its formal consideration of medical marijuana regulation in the city to at least a year – it had held a June 7, 2010 closed session on the subject.

Stephen Kunselman Medical Marijuana Amendments

Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) peruses a marked up copy of medical marijuana legislation. (Photos by the writer.)

On Monday, before the postponements, the council amended both medical marijuana laws, making changes to the versions to which they’d already given initial approval – all city ordinances must receive two affirmative votes at different meetings of the council. Based on the amendments approved Monday night, the votes taken on June 6 will likely count only as the first reading. If the council makes a substantive change to an ordinance after its initial approval, then the ordinance must receive an additional first reading.

Public commentary during the evening included remarks from several medical marijuana advocates, who have become a familiar cast of characters over the past year. One highlight of that commentary included corroboration of a 2004 sidewalk encounter – between a medical marijuana petition circulator and the city attorney – which had been described during public commentary at the council’s previous meeting.

Other public comment at Monday’s meeting focused on the upcoming fiscal year 2012 budget approval, with many of the remarks centered on human services funding. The council had a specific resolution on its agenda that would have allocated funding to local nonprofits that provide human services support – but the council decided to postpone the item. The funding level in the resolution would have been about 9% less than fiscal 2011 funding.

Remarks during the budget public hearing by the president of the local firefighters union focused on the number of deaths due to fire over time. During council communications, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), the chair of the council’s labor committee, reiterated a point he’s made before – that if unions make concessions on their contribution to the city’s health care plan, they can mitigate some (but not all) of the currently planned layoffs.

Public commentary at Monday’s meeting also featured remarks from county clerk Larry Kestenbaum on the following day’s single-issue election, along with an update on possible changes to state election law.

The council unanimously approved the site plan, development agreement, and brownfield plan for Packard Square, a residential development planned for the former Georgetown Mall property. Two days later, the county board of commissioners postponed their approval of items related to the Packard Square brownfield plan.

In other business, the council set a public hearing on a tax abatement for Sakti3; approved several interagency technology agreements that allow for partnership between the city, Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority; and postponed consideration of some large vehicle purchases. The council was also introduced to Paul Krutko, new CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, the local economic development agency.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Washtenaw County commissioner Yousef Rabhi explained how his interest in public service originated in connection with the Buhr Park Wet Meadow project, led by Jeannine Palms. Palms and others involved with the project, which began in 1996, were honored with a mayoral proclamation.  [Full Story]