Minneapolis park commissioners overrode a veto by Mayor Betsy Hodges of their proposal for a park spending referendum, but negotiating is expected to continue on language to which Hodges objects.

Commissioners voted 7-1 Wednesday to override last week’s veto. That wasn’t surprising, given that the board historically overrides mayoral vetoes as an expression of its semi-independence from City Hall. Brad Bourn opposed the override, and John Erwin was absent.

Last week, Hodges vetoed the proposal, saying she’s concerned that it could leave the city with too little fiscal flexibility during periods when its finances are tight.

The Park and Recreation Board last month approved a proposal intended to raise $15 million annually, with inflationary growth, over 20 years. The money would be spent to renovate or replace aging buildings and grounds in 157 neighborhood parks, and to increase the frequency of such tasks as cutting the grass and trimming trees.

Hodges objected to language that’s intended to discourage City Hall from reducing existing property tax and local government aid to offset the increase a referendum would grant. The mayor said that language goes too far. She said it could leave the Park Board with excess funds while the city is scraping to fund basic services.

“These are technical issues we just need to work through with her,” said park Superintendent Jayne Miller. Miller also said Hodges has otherwise been supportive of park capital needs.

“I implore the mayor to understand where we’re coming from,” Commissioner Anita Tabb said, noting that over 20 years, inflation could eat into a fixed-dollar levy.

Reaching agreement with Hodges would allow the Park Board to more easily pursue its preferred option of having the City Council put the proposal on the November ballot. But it could also ask the Charter Commission or Legislature to approve that or gather petition signatures to do so.

 

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