Friday, April 29, 2011

Going Gumby

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is operating under the conservative expectation that they would receive LGA to fund their expenditures. However, the MPRB's certified portion of the state's sales tax (i.e., LGA) may decrease from $10.3 million to $7.6 million, leaving a $2.7 budget gap. So just how can local Park and Recreation departments stretch their green, and be more Gumby? And is there a correlation between resident wealth and park spending?

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB)

Approximately 7 cents of every property tax dollar is allotted to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for supply of their services. To put the earlier note regarding the $2.7 million MPRB LGA budget gap in perspective, this is approximately equivalent to the Board’s complete elimination of all Administrative, Finance and Environmental Protection services.

MPRB and Comparison Cities

The following twelve cities were selected with which to compare expenditures:

· Budget Poor:[1] Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA

· Budget Average: St. Paul, MN; Sioux Falls, SD; Des Moines, IA; Madison, WI; Omaha, NE

· Budget Rich: Little Rock, AR; Fargo, ND; Billings, MT

As can be seen in the graph, Budget Rich cities (green) spend less than Budget Poor (red) cities. Another visible trend is that the three wealthiest cities, San Francisco, Little Rock, and Madison, spend less on park service than the other comparison cities.

Examples of City Cost-Saving Initiatives

Cincinnati Strategies

· Utilizing Student Labor: To make up for the employee cuts that needed to take place, the City is reaching out the University of Cincinnati for their labor force. By employing students at a lower cost than their previous employees , the City is able to save money and maintain the same level of service, and the students gain valuable professional and career experience. While there are concerns that this decision "replaces the higher-paid, and potentially, family-supporting workers," the Parks Department saw it as away to get more for their money.

· Leave No Trace: The Park Board found it more cost efficient to spend money on public awareness than trash collection. Upon finding that many of the city's park trash cans were ineffective and misused, which resulted in wasteful spending in their trash collection, they decided to take three measures: 1) reduce trash collection routes, 2) remove trash cans, and 3) shift trash removal onto Park Maintenance staff, whom are already routinely on-site.

· Give a Day—Get a Game: The City has partnered with the Major League Baseball Players League to create an incentive for residents to volunteer for community park service. Each volunteer that contributes at least four hours of park services will receive a ticket to a Cincinnati Reds game.

Minneapolis Strategies

· Grant Writing: The 2010 MPRB budget did not have room for grant writing. Now, the Board realizes how important it is to lobby and compete for available dollars. Hopefully, this $113,000 shift in spending will allow them to leverage spending dollars in the future.

· Strategic Planting: The Park Board will engage in more strategic planting arrangements of their trees and shrubs that will help reduce operating costs, such as the time associated with mowing around plantings.

· Compost Bins: The City will increase its supply of compost bins at large events, such as bike tours, runs, and garden shows. Encouraging residents to compost their eating and drinking utensils, as well as their food, allows the Board to spend less on waste collection.

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