What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

Erwin won't run for repeat park board president term

Posted by: Bill McAuliffe Updated: November 12, 2013 - 7:41 PM

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will have a new president in the coming term. Incumbent John Erwin, who was elected to another four-year term in an at-large seat, said he believes the leadership should be rotated, but he would not say whom he might nominate. The board presidency is for one year; Erwin was president the past four years

Erwin and board superintendent Jayne Miller appeared Tuesday before the city council's Budget Committee -- half of it anyway (chair Betsy Hodges was absent due to mayoral warm-up exercises) -- to outline a 2014 budget that will grow only slightly over this year's but produce increases in child care programs and tree-planting.

Budget highlights include two additional Rec Plus after-school activities sites, and extended summer day camp hours. Most are now 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will be extended to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to conform more closely to traditional parental work shifts. The budget also calls for several new park board planners, as well as arborists for three currently vacant positions.

The agency's core tax levy will remain the same as this year's, at $48.6 million, thanks in part to a $1.4 million increase (18 percent) in local government aid. But the board is also mulling whether to levy an additional $1 million specifically to begin systematic removal and replacement of the city's ash trees, which are threatened by the invasive emerald ash borer. That levy would have to be renewed annually -- most likely for each of the eight years it's expected for removal and replacement of the 40,000 ash trees on public land. The park board provides city forestry services.

Aftere the initial startup, the tree levy is expected to increase tree planting from 5,500 trees per year, the current rate, to 6,500 next year and 10,000 in subsequent years, Erwin and Miller noted.

The tree levy would represent a 2.1 percent increase in the overall park board levy. It would mean that 8 cents of every Minneapolis property tax dollar would support parks. Thirty-five cents would go to the city, 27 to Hennepin County and 26 to the Minneapolis public schools.

The parks proposal was greeted warmly by the three city council members at the hearing -- Elizabeth Glidden, Diane Hofstede and Meg Tuthill. The hearing was more or less a formality, since the city council and the park board are independent from one another., But the mayor has veto power over the park board budget, since it's considered part of the overall city budget, Miller noted.

Photo: John Erwin

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