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 her veto message that she wants the Park Board to redraft its resolution to address what happens if more money than needed is collected, and to allow more flexibility by the city if it faces unforeseen financial pressures.
"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. There was no immediate reaction from park officials.
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 offsetting that, the board lacks the power to put the referendum on the 2016 city 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 for doing so if the City Council and mayor refuse to do so.
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 the local parks. That could cost the owner of a $190,000 house, close to the city's median value, about $65 annually.
Hodges said that one flaw in the proposal is that it taxes a percentage of the city's market value, rather than authorizes 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 the referendum to rise as construction costs go up.
Hodges said the proposal also could restrict the city's ability to respond to state budget cuts because it seeks to impose a hold-harmless agreement that would prevent the city from reducing the property tax or state aid to offset the increase park levy. That could inhibit the city's ability to avoid cuts to police, fire and other services by tapping the park levy, Hodges wrote.
"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.