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

Park Board sets 4.9 percent levy hike goal

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: July 16, 2014 - 7:37 PM

Minneapolis park commissioners set a goal Wednesday night of achieving a 4.9 percent increase in the parks levy for 2015.

Four percent of that levy increase would be for normal operating and capital purposes, while .9 percent would continue the tree replacement program the board began this year.

The direction to Supt, Jayne Miller followed a debate over whether a 2 or 4 percent levy increase was more realistic, given that the city's levy is slated to rise by 2 percent in its five-year financial plan.  Mayor Betsy Hodges has not yet made a levy recommendation for 2015.

Some commissioners questioned whether a 4.9 percent increase is politically realistic. But Miller already has projected that with a 2 percent increase the Park Board faces a $1.3 million budget gap just to maintain current programs. The board raised its 2014 levy by 2 percent, but devoted all of the increase to beginning a multi-year program to remove and replace trees damaged by storms or the emerald ash borer.

The board also seeks added money to repair neighborhood parks, where Miller said a dearth of maintenance funds has increased the cost of replacing mechanical systems once they fail. The board directed her to devise a strategy to fund those needs.

The overall city levy, which includes separate city and park levies proposed by different governing bodies, will be set by the Board of Estimate and Taxation, on which the Park Board holds one seat.

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