For the last several weeks, the City Council has deliberated on a proposal to create a Seattle Parks District. Under state law, the city government can ask the voters to approve this new, dedicated and sustainable funding source for our parks.
The Council will meet this afternoon to make a final decision about placing this measure before voters in August.
The Council received a proposal from the Mayor that placed a strong and much needed emphasis on major maintenance and regular upkeep of our parks system. The Council is looking at a final funding package that increases the focus on maintenance while advancing a modest reduction from the Mayor’s proposal overall.
We have heard concerns from parks advocates that the Council is “cutting” programs. To be clear, the Council’s package will likely total $47.9 million — double the expiring Parks Levy size — and adds (not cuts) millions of new program dollars.
If the Council’s package moves forward today, our community centers will receive additional staffing that will help the Parks Department more effectively implement the geographic tiered structure agreed upon several years ago as the most efficient operating structure for these facilities. Support for the Green Seattle Partnership, a valuable program that leverages volunteer hours to restore our natural green spaces, will increase 65% over 2014 levels. The proposal also includes more funding for programs that serve seniors, people living with disabilities, and immigrant and refugee communities.
We have also heard concerns from some about accountability. The Council has added language in the ordinance to address some of these questions, but ultimately the accountability structure for spending is the same as what currently exists for our parks spending. The City Council will allocate available funds, from a Parks District and other general revenues, via the very public, transparent annual budget process.