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Seattle Parks and Recreation

The View From Denny Park
Gregory J. Nickels, Mayor
Kenneth R Bounds, Superintendent

No. 30. October 2, 2002
A periodic electronic newsletter
about Parks and Recreation news, programs, projects and events
from Seattle Parks & Recreation Superintendent Ken Bounds

The View from Denny Park: News and Views from the Superintendent


As most of you know, Mayor Greg Nickels released his 2003-2004 proposed budget last week. The budget includes City department initiatives to improve Seattle's business climate, strengthen public safety, improve transportation, and build communities.

Because the City faces a nearly $60 million budget gap due to declining revenues and higher costs, the Mayor's budget strives to spread budget reductions over all City services in a way that is sustainable over time. The Mayor stressed the importance of "focusing on the city's core responsibilities - such as police, fire, water, parks and libraries - and doing those things well." I believe our 2003-2004 proposed budget does just that.

The Park Fund, from which we make our operating expenditures, is comprised of revenues from three main sources:

  1. The "Charter revenues," from a provision of the City Charter that provides that 10 percent of all revenues to the City from fines, penalties and licenses go to the Park Fund.
  2. Fees for services, grants and other miscellaneous sources, such as swimming pools, the Aquarium, and State grants.
  3. General Fund (City tax revenues).

While the share for each source varies slightly from year to year, the trend is that the percentage of our revenues that come from the General Fund is declining: in 1968 the General Fund provided 50% of our budget; in 1990 it was 43%; and for 2003 it will be 34 % (excluding Zoo Transition costs funded from General Fund).

We've taken the Mayor's directive very seriously in developing our own budget proposal, and followed his instruction to cut overhead first, services last. In order to minimize the impact to the public, our first priority was to reduce administrative costs. Our $4.4 million share of the reduction amounts to a 15% cut in General Fund, or about 7% of our "discretionary" revenue--Charter revenues plus General Fund. Unfortunately, we couldn't make a cut of this magnitude without some effect on services and fees. In making these difficult decisions we proposed cuts that would have the least impact on the public, and that would maintain the integrity of the programming and maintenance funded by the 2000 Pro Parks Levy.

It's important to note that there were no reductions in the voter-approved Pro Parks Levy and the Community Center Levy Program that together fund dozens of park improvements, acquisitions, building renovations, recreation programs and maintenance.

Here is a summary of the expenditure reductions in our budget proposal:

We will save about $1.1 million by eliminating 18 positions--consolidating several operating divisions into one, eliminating some supervisory and management positions, and eliminating crew chief positions by consolidating crews.

For a savings of $1,640,000, we propose to:

  • Transfer a portion of our responsibility for Salmon Homecoming to the Salmon Homecoming Alliance, a private non-profit organization
  • Convert 80% of the City's funding for KidsPlace and Key Project into scholarship funds for advisory council after-school programs
  • Reduce backfill (filling in during absences) of community center custodians
  • Have floor maintenance (gymnasiums, etc.) done on a contract
  • Have litter picked up by Park Maintenance Aides rather than by Laborers
  • Reduce the number of vehicles and phones
  • Increase salary savings (money saved from staff vacancies) from .5% to 1%
  • Implement a "rolling closure" at community centers involved in major construction projects
  • Transfer the "community nights in schools" program to the Seattle School District
  • Reorganize Athletics staffing

We will increase our revenue by $327,000 through modest user fee increases at the Aquarium, swimming pools, and other programs.

Non-Peak Direct Service Reductions
We will save $474,000 by reducing activities during non-peak times:

  • Reduce basic community center hours from an average of 53 to 46 hours per week: base hours would be 1 to 9 p.m., and each center could extend its schedule to program "extra" hours in whatever way best suits or serves the community
  • Reduce the number of community centers operating seven days a week from six to two (Green Lake and Rainier Beach) in the summer
  • Close all indoor swimming pools for one week, either "tacked on" to a preventive maintenance closure or during a period of slow use, typically late August or late December
  • Reduce milfoil harvesting capacity
  • Reduce high school intern program by 50%
  • Reduce park cleaning in the winter by 5%
  • Abrogate one of four Volunteer Coordinator positions

Other Direct Service Reductions
To achieve $846,000 more in savings, we will:

  • Close Pritchard Beach, our least-used public swimming beach, for the summer
  • Reduce the administration and support for the Conservation Corps
  • Reduce the number of Landscape and Turf projects
  • Reduce the Late Night Recreation Program from 5 hours per night to 4 hours per night
  • Close seven playground sites that have no wading pool and/or low-attendance,
    and shorten the season at the other 21 sites

While these service reductions are real, we will continue to carry out our mission--to be good stewards of our environment and to provide safe and welcoming opportunities to play, learn, contemplate and build community.
Efforts will include:

  • Operation and maintenance of 23 community centers, 10 pools, one performing arts center, four environmental learning centers, one tennis center, the Aquarium, two boating centers, and many other facilities
  • Maintenance of 6,000-plus acres of park land
  • Continuation of efforts to implement Best Management Practices, including pesticide reduction and resource conservation
  • Continuation of vigorous outreach and coordination with volunteers
  • Implementation of Community Center and Pro Parks Levy projects
  • Forward progress on major park initiatives such as South Lake Union, Sand Point Magnuson, Northgate and Lincoln Reservoir, and on active partnerships
  • Vigorous implementation of the Public Involvement Policy
  • Continuation of efforts to incorporate environmental programs and projects in all we do.

The City Council is currently reviewing the Mayor's proposed 2003-2004 budget and will adopt an amended version by the end of November.

The City Council public hearing schedule follows:

Tuesday, October 1, 5:30 p.m.: meeting with City Employees, Arctic Building Dome Room

Thursday, October 3, 6:30 p.m.: Budget Town Hall, Seattle Center Northwest Rooms

Monday, October 7, 6 p.m.: Human Services Budget Forum sponsored by the Minority Executive Directors Coalition and Human Services, New Holly Community Room, 7054 32nd Ave. S.

Thursday, October 10, 5:30 p.m.: (call-ins begin at 4:30): Public hearing on property tax ordinance and Mayor's proposed budget, Council Chambers, 1100 Municipal Building, 600 4th Ave.

Thursday, November 7, 5:30 p.m.: (call-ins begin at 4:30 p.m.): Public hearing on Mayor's proposed budget and budget-related Comprehensive Plan amendments (including those related to the Capital Improvement Program); CLEAN hearings (i.e., Aquarium and Zoo)

For complete information about the Council review process, please visit the web site at If you have questions about Parks and Recreation's proposed budget, please call Dewey Potter at 206-684-7241 or David Takami at 206-684-8020.


We're proud to report that the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) last month granted accreditation to the Seattle Aquarium. Accreditation is granted for five years; the institution must then undergo the rigorous investigation to again ensure that it meets strict standards in collection care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

Also last month, the Aquarium and the Seattle Aquarium Society announced that their plans for a new Aquarium are on hold until 2008 at the earliest, depending on the development of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and sea wall projects.


On United Way of King County's Day of Caring on Sept. 13, nearly 800 volunteers from more than a dozen corporations and community groups helped out at 16 different Seattle park sites. They did a variety of jobs, mostly outdoors, such as pruning, weeding, mulching and beach cleanups. At Sand Point Magnuson Park, 400 volunteers from Eddie Bauer collectively logged 2,500 hours of volunteer service valued at $100,000. Much of the work at parks helps prepare the ground for fall planting projects. We applaud these great partnerships with business and community members and hope to continue such efforts in the future.


You may have noticed the orange construction fencing surrounding large parts of the Jackson Park Golf Course in north Seattle. Last month, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) began a two-year project to build three storm water detention ponds on the course; at the same time, the project will improve golf course aesthetics, playability and the irrigation system. The course is open to the public during construction. SPU worked closely with Jackson Park staff to ensure that golfers knew about the project and alter some of the holes to accommodate construction activity.

I will be in touch soon.

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