Mayor Betsy Hodges has vetoed a Minneapolis Park Board resolution that seeks a referendum this fall on raising property taxes for neighborhood park repairs, saying it needs to address two contingencies.
Hodges said in her veto message that she wants the Park Board to rewrite its resolution to address what happens if more money than needed is collected, and to allow more fiscal flexibility for the city if it faces unforeseen financial pressures. Her veto doesn't necessarily derail the referendum, but could slow it somewhat.
"These flaws are correctable and do not speak to the inherent value of the action," Hodges wrote of the referendum proposal.
Hodges said redrafted language for the proposal will increase its chances of success.
"We can certainly address that and see if there's something that works," said Commissioner Jon Olson, who chairs the board's intergovernmental committee.
The Park Board traditionally overrides mayoral vetoes to assert its status as a semi-independent board, and the veto will be on its agenda Wednesday. An override requires six of nine park commissioners, and eight commissioners voted for the referendum. But one incentive to work with City Hall is that the board lacks the power to put the referendum on the ballot on its own.
Having the City Council put the referendum on the ballot would be the most direct route. But the board has several other avenues it could try if the City Council and mayor block that.
The Park Board sought authority to raise taxes by about $15 million annually, plus inflation, to address a backlog of deteriorating buildings and grounds at local parks. That could cost the owner of a $190,000 house, close to the city's median value, about $66 annually.
'Flexibility' over funds
Hodges said that one flaw in the proposal is that it taxes a percentage of the city's market value, rather than authorizing a specific dollar amount. She said that if the Park Board collects money above its projected needs and the city faces state funding cuts in the future, "we would want the flexibility to use excess funds to preserve essential services."
This feature of the referendum proposal drafted by park Superintendent Jayne Miller was designed to allow the amount of money collected through taxes to rise as construction costs increase.
Hodges said the proposal also could restrict the city's ability to respond to state budget cuts. She said the board's proposal goes too far, giving parks an unprecedented financial guarantee, which services such as police and fire service lack. She said the city needs flexibility to respond to serious financial challenges.
"None of us want to see those dollars diverted," Hodges wrote. "But this language simply goes too far toward that goal."
In recent years, the Park Board and city have agreed that parks should get about 11.8 percent of the local government aid flowing from the state to the city.
Mark Andrew, who chairs the planned pro-referendum campaign, was conciliatory. "While it's always disappointing to see a veto, I think the mayor was intending to be very constructive," he said. "We are going to work with her."