Park Board considers other options to move referendum forward

The Park Board seeks to close a growing funding gap in maintaining the city's 157 neighborhood parks, such as Bethune Park. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
The Park Board seeks to close a growing funding gap in maintaining the city's 157 neighborhood parks, such as Bethune Park. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board directed staff Wednesday to seek all possible options in getting a referendum before voters this November in order to maintain the city’s neighborhood parks.

Commissioners voted 8-1 on a resolution from President Liz Wielinski to pursue all four routes to move the measure forward. The proposal follows a presentation from the city attorney’s office arguing that the City Council does not have the authority under the city charter or state law to place it on the ballot.

The City Council is the board’s preferred route, with the city being its closest partner. Other parties, including the City Charter Commission, the Legislature or a group of citizens, could authorize putting the park levy increase onto the ballot. Even if the board goes through these other options, council members will have to approve the ballot question’s wording.

The Park Board is seeking to raise about $15 million each year for the life of the referendum. Superintendent Jayne Miller plans to release more details in April on how the board will spend the estimated $77 million the levy increase will raise in its first five years. The measure follows more than a year of meetings with the public and park officials on annual funding gaps in maintaining the city’s aging neighborhood parks.

Miller estimates the increase would translate to $66 a year for taxpayers with a $190,000 home, about $112 a year for those with $300,000 homes and about $174 annually for those with $450,000 homes.

Park commissioners have already received push back from Mayor Betsy Hodges, who vetoed the proposal earlier this year only to have the board override her action. Hodges called on the board to redraft the proposal to allow for more flexibility to use funds to preserve essential services, among other concerns.