Superintendent Al Bangoura’s Recommended 2021 Budget for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) addresses the revenue shortfall caused by COVID-19, protects park assets, including physical infrastructure and park amenities, and continues the MPRB’s focus on its most important priority: the youth of the city.
The Superintendent’s recommended budget was developed using the budget framework adopted by the Board of Commissioners on June 3, 2020. Accordingly, it protects the gains that have been made in investing in youth; focuses on racial equity and economic equity; protects capital investment through the 20 Year Neighborhood Park Plan (NPP20); identifies employee engagement to ensure that employee’s voices are heard; and recognizes that program and service levels with corresponding staffing levels will need to be redefined.
“To say 2020 has been challenging is an understatement,” said Superintendent Bangoura. “From the COVID-19 pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, peaceful protests and civil unrest, to an economic recession with unemployment levels worse than the great depression, all which contributed to the rise in the number of the most vulnerable of our city experiencing homelessness, many of whom sought temporary refuge on parkland, 2020 has been a year like no other. Throughout it all, parks have played a critical role in the lives of so many seeking a place to go, to recreate and to gather, at a time when it is so badly needed.”
According to Bangoura, 2020 required responsiveness and testing of new ways of serving the public, and his proposed 2021 budget builds on this work, supports innovation and addresses new pressures.
The proposed budget reflects several organizational changes being implemented by the Superintendent in the fourth quarter of 2020, many based on employee ideas and suggestions. The changes include: a modified recreation division structure to strengthen the focus on youth programming; realigning resources to create a new community support services department that focuses on safety strategies and provides support, intervention, and de-escalation to community and staff in parks; reallocating resources for grant and donation administration; and combining cross departmental staff who work on data and analytics into one team. The proposed budget also protects the $10.5 million allocation for the 20 Year Neighborhood Park Plan (NPP20) and the use of criteria-based systems and the racial equity lens for budget allocations and decisions. Racial equity work continues to be demonstrated in the Superintendent’s Recommended 2021 Budget in five distinct areas: 2021 department budget goals; neighborhood park capital improvement and rehabilitation funding; regional park capital improvement funding; recreation center funding; and 2021 budget adjustments.
The Superintendent’s 2021 Recommended Budget has been developed under the constraints of the continued impacts of the pandemic and the maximum tax levies authorized by the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation which did not provide current service level funding for MPRB operations. The recommended budget includes a proposed 1.18 percent property tax levy increase that includes a 1.9 percent property tax increase for the General Fund and a 24.6 percent property tax levy decrease for the final year of the Tree Preservation and Reforestation Levy to respond to emerald ash borer and urban tree canopy loss due to storms. The recommended budget proposes utilizing the maximum 1.18 percent tax levy approved by the Board of Estimate and Taxation. It is estimated that the proposed 1.18 percent property tax increase will not result in an increase in property taxes for the owner of a median-value $271,000 house due to growth in the tax base.
The Superintendent’s Recommended 2021 Budget totals $128.7 million, including $85.9 million for the general operating fund, $12.2 million for the enterprise fund, $2.8 million for the special revenue fund and $27.8 million for capital project funding.
This proposed budget protects the MPRB’s commitment to strategic long-term planning. It also protects the 2018-2022 Strategic Directions and Performance Goals adopted by the Board of Commissioners in April 2018 and 2019 respectively. The Strategic Direction guides system-wide operations and initiatives through 2022 through the identification of four priorities: invest in youth; be financially sustainable; protect the environment; and engage communities’ power.
Invest in Youth
The proposed budget protects and moves forward the gains in recreation funding for youth that were made in 2020 prior to COVID-19, by maintaining the same level of funding in 2021 as was made in 2020. There were reductions in all divisional budgets except the youth funding allocated within those divisions. The budget supports organizational structure changes being implemented by the Superintendent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to deliver meaningful, engaging, cutting edge programming.
COVID-19 and the subsequent economic recession have caused great financial impact to the MPRB. During the pandemic and subsequent economic recession, the Board provided the framework and guidance that were key in making budget decisions for the 2021 recommended budget. Due to the economic crisis facing Minneapolis property owners, the property tax levy does not fully support the current service level budget. In order to protect youth investment and environmental initiatives, this budget includes increases in established fees and charges in areas that don’t impact youth; the addition of new fees and charges in areas that don’t impact youth; organizational structure changes implemented in the fourth quarter of 2020; and service reductions within every MPRB division. Position eliminations in the proposed budget focus on current vacancies and the least amount of impact to direct services to Minneapolis residents.
Protect the Environment
The MPRB remains committed to decreasing its carbon footprint, increase usage of electric vehicles and reductions in pesticide usage. The proposed budget continues these efforts by the further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions using priorities and recommendations from the first completed carbon footprint analysis, and the implementation of formal criteria for evaluating new equipment purchases and replacements to reduce fuel consumption, minimize pollution and emissions, and improve operations. The budget also supports the installation of two community gardens focused in areas of greatest need, a diagnostic study of Powderhorn Lake, and enhancing the review of Forestry specifications for private development in the City to ensure that tree preservation techniques are implemented.
Engage Communities’ Power
The MPRB serves the community and people of Minneapolis, so it is paramount to its success that the MPRB builds on the strong and unique connections that Minneapolis communities have to the park system. In 2020, the Board of Commissioners has made two things clear: the desire to rethink policing in parks and the importance to mitigate impacts on the most economically vulnerable of our community. To help achieve these goals, the Superintendent is reallocating existing resources to form a new Community Support Services Department in the fourth quarter of 2020 and his proposed 2021 budget supports this new initiative. This new department includes staff with the skills and talents necessary to support community, staff, and park patrons in challenging situations and complex problems. Department members will work collaboratively with community members, community partner agencies, park users, stakeholders, staff, and Park Police to help solve park safety problems, complementing our unique approach to community policing of parks. The 2021 recommended budget provides additional resources for this new department through the elimination of one police officer. The budget supports other organizational changes being implemented in 2020 to strengthen the bridge between the MPRB and the community, including stronger alignment of ADA, gender inclusion and racial equity work with human resources to ensure it is imbedded in all of MPRB’s work to recruit, develop and retain staff.
The proposed budget and related documents are available for viewing at minneapolisparks.org/budget. The public may comment on the proposed budget during the following times. To minimize the risk of exposure to or potential spread of COVID-19, the MPRB has added options for comments to be submitted for its public meetings and hearings. See minneapolisparks.org/board_meetings for details.
• November 4, Public Comment Session – Administration and Finance Committee meeting, MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis. The Committee meeting will follow the Board’s regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. Comments may be made during the Budget Comment period scheduled for 6 p.m.
November 18, Public Comment Session – Regular Board meeting, MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis, which starts at 5 p.m. Comments may be made during the Budget Comment period scheduled for 6 p.m.
• December 2, Administration & Finance Committee Approval of 2020 Budget – MPRB Headquarters, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis. Comments may be made during 5:30 p.m. regularly scheduled Open Time session.
• December 9, Public Hearing and Board Approval of 2020 Budget – City of Minneapolis public hearing on 2020 tax levy and 2020 Budget, City Hall, Council Chambers Room 317, 350 South 5th Street, Minneapolis, at 6:05 p.m.