Parks issues now under discussion during City Council budget review

Home » Parks issues now under discussion during City Council budget review

As you may know, with the changing of the leaves comes the City Council review of the Mayor’s proposed budget, and we are well into it now.  We have heard the Department Presentations, and we are currently in the stage of “Issue Identification.” (Download a PDF of the budget review schedule.)

In Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), at least six issues have been flagged for further discussion. I say “at least” because the further we delve, the more issues we may discover.

  • Community Centers
  • Zoo Surface Parking Lot
  • Peak Season Temporary Parks Maintenance
  • Volunteer Park Conservatory
  • Association of Recreation Council and DPR Fundraising/Grants
  • Park Fee Ordinance
  • Athletic Field Fees (possible)


Community Centers: The Mayor’s 2013-2014 proposed budget includes funding to increase the public hours or drop-in hours at seven community centers that are currently classified as either 2a or 2b centers. The seven centers that would receive 10 additional hours per week are Ballard, Delridge, Miller, Northgate, South Park, Van Asselt, and Yesler.  The additional hours will not provide organized youth programming, instead, they will fund adult supervision at these facilities with a drop-in format for gymnasium use, computer labs, and other activities, or as the executive states, “a place to hang out.”

The Mayor’s proposed budget  also includes funding to maintain additional hours at the International District and Magnolia Community Centers that were added by DPR in 2012.  In the 2012 Adopted Budget, Council provided $100,000 in one-time contingency funding for DPR to use in response to the shift to the new geographic management of community centers. DPR used this money to add 10 hours to both the Chinatown/ID Community Center and the Magnolia Community Center. 

Zoo Surface Parking Lot: The Mayor’s proposed budget includes $2 million in REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) funding to pay for 75% of the cost of a new 180-stall surface parking lot at the Woodland Park Zoo.  The $2 million funding amount reflects the financial terms of an amendment to the underlying Operations and Management Agreement that the Mayor and Zoo Society have negotiated. 

Peak Season Temporary Parks Maintenance:  The Mayor’s 2013-2014 Proposed Budget increases DPR’s budget by $200,000 for each year to pay for peak season parks maintenance by temporary staff. The additional funding will allow for 8,000 hours of extra support, probably focused on lower-level maintenance tasks.

Volunteer Park Conservatory: In 2012, DPR commissioned a consultant study of the Volunteer Park Conservatory (Conservatory) to recommend options for transitioning the Conservatory into a more financially self-sustaining facility and to reduce its reliance on General Subfund (GSF) support.  Recommendations range from charging an admission fee to cutting a gardener position.

Association of Recreation Council and DPR Fundraising/Grants:  The Mayor’s 2013-2014 Proposed Budget includes $75,000 GSF per year to support the Associated Recreation Council (ARC) in hiring a development director to raise funds for DPR recreation programs. 

Park Fee Ordinance:  DPR is proposing new or adjusted fees for a number of its services and facilities for 2013 in C.B.117623 submitted as budget legislation.  Some of the proposed increases include fees for swimming, Camp Long and admission to the Conservatory.

Athletic Field Fees (possible): Though athletic field fees are not being increased in the proposed budget, I would like to give teams a year’s advance notice of such an increase. I am exploring the idea of a SLI asking DPR to determine the following: 1) costs to operate and maintain an athletic field 2) range of possible fee increase that may be proposed in the next budget cycle 3) the feasibility of earmarking a percentage of the field fee to create a turf field replacement reserve.

As far as the Department of Neighborhoods(DON), there were no major issues brought forth so there will be no formal Issue Identification round. However, there are some ideas being discussed about Ethnic and Cultural Centers and about Historic Preservation.

To learn more about the process and see budget documents related to Parks and DON, please visit my homepage.