An alternative plan to raise big bucks for park improvements inched closer to majority support in a formal unveiling Wednesday at the City Council. Park commissioners later endorsed it unanimously.
Council Members Andrew Johnson and Jacob Frey joined Council President Barb Johnson and Lisa Goodman, who crafted the proposal. Linea Palmisano, who declared support afterward, said she expects the proposal will gain a majority. They prefer it to a referendum proposed earlier by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Those expressing reservations said that an extra $11 million annually for deteriorating buildings and fields in parks needs to be discussed in competition with other city priorities, including street repair, affordable housing, police and fire staffing, and addressing racial disparities.
The Park Board has asked the council to authorize a November referendum on levying for 20 years at least $15 million more for parks annually, but the city attorney's office has said it doesn't think a levy proposal can go to a referendum. The board also has asked the Charter Commission to move the proposal forward. That referendum question, if approved, would increase the city levy by 5 percent starting in 2018, interim Chief Financial Officer Sandra Christensen told the council.
That jump troubles Palmisano, who represents the city's tax-sensitive southwest corner.
Johnson and Goodman crafted a 20-year plan that would raise the levy by 1 percent to give parks an added $3 million annually for local operations, and reallocate other expected funds to provide an escalating $8 million annually for repairs and replacements.
Council Member Lisa Bender said much more information is needed before the alternate proposal is considered by the council's budget committee.
Politically, the alternative looks good to council backers as long as there's a viable threat of a referendum that could bring a bigger tax hike. If city lawyers block the council and charter commission route, the Park Board still has the options of a petition drive or state legislation to authorize a vote.