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THE VIEW FROM DENNY PARK
News and Views from the Superintendent
No. 55. October 8, 2004
Gregory J. Nickels, Mayor
Kenneth R. Bounds, Superintendent
A periodic electronic newsletter about Parks and Recreation news, programs, projects and events from Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ken Bounds
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Parks and Recreation budget details

Recently, I relayed some general information about the Mayor's proposed budget for 2005-2006. I'd like to share more details of the budget as it relates to Parks and Recreation.

We have faced tough economic times as a community, and we got through the worst of it-together. However, the economic downturn forced us to make some tough decisions. Since 2001, Seattle Parks and Recreation's operating budget has been cut by more than $13.5 million.

In response, we looked first at our administrative functions and any possible efficiencies. We have reorganized several times, cut positions at all levels, "flattened" our organization, and increased staff members' workloads. Last year, we were forced to close two swimming beaches and cut hours at centers and pools.

For 2005, we face another reduction to our budget of about $4.6 million.

Our 2005 budget reflects more than $1.05 million in sustainable cuts made in mid-2004, and an additional $2.05 million in reductions, plus $1.5 million in new revenues. The effect of these actions is to reduce Parks' dependence on the General Fund.

Our operating budget comes from the following sources: a provision in the City Charter that places in the Park Fund 10 percent of City revenues from fines, penalties, and licenses; the City General Fund; proceeds from levies; and user fees and charges.

We propose an internal reorganization that will save $500,000 in 2005 by eliminating two manager positions, an office support position, and two recreation coordinator positions. The reorganization will consolidate two divisions and fold Magnuson Park into the remaining division. We also will eliminate one landscape architect position and one ballfield coordinator.

We will make reductions of the General Fund support of the Late Night Recreation program, the Environmental Learning Centers, park cleaning and routine maintenance, the summer playground program, facility maintenance, and vacant positions will be eliminated.

We propose modest increases in fees for the Aquarium and some aquatics programs, and facility rental, drop-in sports, tennis center, and adult sportsfield fees. We will institute a small fee for entry to the Volunteer Park Conservatory, increase the fee for entry to the Japanese Garden, institute a fee for parking at selected regional parks, and begin charging a permit fee for beach fires.

The proposals to charge parking fees and admission to the Conservatory have received some attention in the media and I wanted to provide some background for our decisions.

Parking Fee: We propose to charge a small fee, probably $1 per use with varying time limits, for parking at Green Lake/Woodland Parks, Seward Park and Lake Washington Boulevard, McCurdy Park (current home of the Museum of History and Industry), and Lincoln Park. There would be a slightly higher rate for special events. Staff projections for revenues anticipate approximately $100,000 in fee revenues for the Park Fund in 2005.

Other nearby parks systems are charging for parking to raise revenue, the closest example being King County's Marymoor Park. The model we propose will also provide for frequent user passes for $10 per month or $100 per year.

An important element of the proposal is to ensure parking is available for park visitors. At Lincoln Park, for example, the new time-limited parking fee will discourage ferry commuters who park for long periods of time at the lot nearest the ferry terminal. At Green Lake it will discourage commuter parking from the nearby Park and Ride.

Conservatory Admission Fee: We propose to charge a $5 admission fee to the Volunteer Park Conservatory with reduced rates for elderly and school groups. Also, annual passes for $15 for individuals and $25 for families will be available for frequent visitors. We estimate this fee will raise $465,000 annually.

The Conservatory is one of the special treasures of our parks system and we are committed to its continued success. Since 1994, we've invested more than $2.4 million on seven separate projects to improve the building exterior and interior. The Conservatory is also costly to operate-more than $450,000 a year. We believe a fee to help offset operating costs is appropriate and consistent with other Parks programs.

In considering this fee proposal, we also looked at practices in other cities, including Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Vancouver, B.C., which charge a similar admission fee for their conservatories.

Regarding the Late Night Recreation program, we will continue to operate five Late Night sites: Garfield Teen Life Center, Golden Gardens, Meadowbrook Teen Center, Rainier/Rainier Beach, and Southwest Teen Center. We will operate these programs as part of our Teen Development Program, which is funded by the Pro Parks Levy. The programming will be integrated into our overall approach to working with teens. Several other of our community centers also offer "late night" programs and activities for teens on the weekend.

More details are available about the budget at www.seattle.gov/mayor/issues/budget

I will be in touch soon.

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