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MPRB: 2016 referendum to close neighborhood park funding gap

At its Jan. 20 meeting, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) of Commissioners approved language for a 2016 ballot measure that will ask Minneapolis residents for a property tax levy to help maintain, rehabilitate and invest in its chronically underfunded network of 160 neighborhood parks. After a year of public meetings about the current condition and maintenance service level of  neighborhood parks in the city, Commissioners voted to approve MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller’s final recommendations for the Closing the Gap: Investing in Neighborhood Parks (Closing the Gap)initiative.

Resolution 2016-112, passed Wednesday night by Commissioners, includes ballot language for a November 2016 referendum and elements of an agreement with the Minneapolis City Council to address sustained current funding. Superintendent Miller also provided an overarching implementation plan for a referendum at the direction of Commissioners. If approved by the residents of Minneapolis, the referendum will generate the additional resources needed to provide a long-term strategy to fund annual maintenance, repair and capital investments for neighborhood parks in Minneapolis, as long as other current funding sources are sustained.

The maximum annual amount of the proposed tax levy increase is limited to .0388 percent of the estimated market value by the city per year. It would begin in 2018 and continue to be collected for the next 20 years. If the levy had been in place in 2016, it would have generated approximately $15 million and added $65.68 to the property tax bill of an owner of a home valued at $190,000.

All expenditures related to the levy would be subject to full public examination. A one-page fact sheet gives an overview of how funding generated by the levy would be spent in the first five years; Superintendent Miller will provide specifics of the 2018-2022 implementation plan in April.

The Superintendent’s presentation materials and numerous other resources regarding Closing the Gap are available at www.minneapolisparks.org/closingthegap under the “Key Documents” section.


Closing the Gap: Investing in Neighborhood Parks is an initiative of the Superintendent and Commissioners that shared information with Minneapolis residents and partners about the current condition and service level of neighborhood parks.  Closing the Gap looked at the impacts of the age of the system and deferred maintenance – or delayed regular upkeep past the point of repair – has had on the 160 neighborhood parks in Minneapolis.

The Closing the Gap initiative gathered information from Minneapolis residents and partners about investment priorities for operation, maintenance and replacement of existing neighborhood park assets. Since May 2015, a spectrum of community engagement methods and communications tools were used to share and collect information for the Closing the Gap initiative.

Minneapolis’ neighborhood parks have the greatest number of physical assets that require greater resources to operate, maintain and replace. To sustain the current level of physical assets in the park system the MPRB needs $14.3 million plus inflation each year to meet capital investment needs. The MPRB currently has $4-5 million per year to invest in these assets. Based on 2015 costs, the annual capital gap is $9.3 million plus inflation. The neighborhood parks also require annual investments to operate them to industry standards for activities such as mowing, building maintenance, tree pruning and roof and path repairs. Based on 2015 costs, the operational gap is a minimum of $3 million plus inflation per year.

On Oct. 21, 2015, the Superintendent provided three reports to the Board of Commissioners:

  • “Investing in Neighborhood Parks – Final Report” completed by MPRB staff
  • “Public and Private Funding Strategies for Neighborhood Parks” completed by the City Parks Alliance
  • “Conservation Finance Feasibility Study – Minneapolis, Minnesota” completed by The Trust for Public Land.

The Board of Commissioners directed the Superintendent to work on a possible referendum to address neighborhood park funding challenges following discussion of the reports presented on Oct. 21.

Closing the Gap: Investing in our Neighborhood Parks

An abundance of information on the state of Minneapolis’ neighborhood parks is available at http://www.minneapolisparks.org/closingthegap:

  • “Park Profiles” detailing where investments have been made and where funding gaps are in every neighborhood park in the city. (Under “Background” tab)
  • Two 2015 budget fact sheets showing where MPRB’s budget comes from and what it supports.
  • A neighborhood parks fact sheet explaining how the funding gap was created and what MPRB is doing already to help close it.
  • An FAQ with concise answers to 27 questions commonly asked during 2015 Closing the Gap meetings.

To stay informed on Closing the Gap please visit http://www.minneapolisparks.org/closingthegap and sign up for email updates.