2015-2016 City Budget
The Austin City Council began deliberations in July & August of 2015 to adopt the 2015-2016 municipal budget, including funding for the city’s parks and recreational facilities in the upcoming fiscal year. The advocacy group Great Austin Parks identified the need for additional monies in the proposed budget for trails, swimming pools, forestry, basic maintenance, and recreation center programs for disadvantaged youth and seniors.
The City Managers proposed budget gave the Parks Department 3 new full time employees to properly care for Austin’s almost 30,000 acres of park land. In 2015, the City of Austin spent only $65 per resident each year to operate its parks. While some Rust Belt cities spent much more. Clevelend and Boston $88, Plano $90, Fort Worth $75, and Corpus Christi $73 (according to statistics compiled by the Trust for Public Land – 2015 City Park Facts).
Austin’s parks and pools have an infrastructure “time bomb” of approximately $1 Billion dollars of back logged repairs. Ordinary maintenance often gets postponed repeatedly until it becomes a major capital project. Several much beloved swimming pools like Metz were threatened with closure earlier this year due to serious leaks. We need a plan to catch up on all of these problems!
Our 2015 Budget ask:
- Creation of an annual dedicated Pools Reinvestment Fund from existing pool entrance fees to help solve the massive problem in pool maintenance, infrastructure, and programming.
- Recreation of an Ombudsman position(s) in an ACM office. This position would foster a culture of support for the existing and future Public/Private partnerships that support the City of Austin and help contribute to the equation for affordability. Additionally, it would delegate ultimate accountability for P3’s to an ACM.
- In the upcoming budget process, fund an external professional review of the Parks and Recreation Department. Assess current parks resources, management, and needs with recommendations for programming, infrastructure, and funding strategies that can help to align PARD’s long range goals with the new 10-1 system of governance and help to articulate a 21st century vision for our parks.
Our Vision: “For Austin to have the best parks and open spaces in the country.”
To achieve this vision for parks we propose the following framework:
- Geography – 10-1 representation requires district specific organization, and community initiated projects that connect parks to people.
- Growth – We know that increased growth put tremendous pressure on city infrastructure. We also know that a quality of life depends on access to basic city services and amenities such as parks. Additional resources are required to address the impact on parks of unprecedented population growth- 100 new people a day is taxing a parks system that is already suffering. There is a desperate need for improved maintenance, increased budget, increased efficiencies, additional land, and expanded programming that is truly accessible to residents.
- Greatness– We need a park system commensurate with our innovative, world-class city. Parks are an essential component of urban life, particularly for those that in our city that rely on these public spaces and their programming to maintain their family budgets. For every Austinite, parks have a powerful impact on quality of life.
Our long-term goal
Develop and implement a strategic plan for the future, a plan for great Austin parks.
- Work together to establish a long-term 21st Century Vision for great parks in Austin.
- Inventory of long-term needs and priorities for each of the 10 Council districts that can help us to address population growth and commensurate park usage
- As part of the assessment, lead a community-wide discussion to develop a broader vision for the City’s stewardship of its parks and open spaces, including:
- All City departments involved in parks and public space
Other community entities (e.g., Parks Board, nonprofits, foundations, AISD, user groups, LCRA, etc.)
How will Austin build, improve and maintain its parks system when faced with massive deferred maintenance needs and unprecedented growth in parks usage?
- In 2014 Austin spent $67.08 per capita vs. a median of $84 for the 60 largest U.S. cities
- PARD has over $1 billion in delayed and deferred maintenance
- City departments with responsibilities relating to parks and open spaces do not seem to have shared, collaborative ownership
- Access to parks is not equitably spread throughout the city
Integrate the above findings with Imagine Austin.
Sample Guiding Principles ( New Yorkers for Parks http://www.ny4p.org/about)
- Open spaces, and the resources to support them, should be equitably distributed citywide
- Existing parks and open spaces should be preserved and well-maintained
- Parks are an essential public service and should be primarily funded by public dollars
- Innovative financing strategies for creating, improving, and maintaining open space should be explored to augment public dollars