Monday, November 9, 2020 by Daniel Salazar

Parks board wants bigger say on financial, budget issues

The Parks and Recreation Board is making a move to dive deeper into the financial and budgetary issues that affect the city’s parks department.

At the board’s Oct. 27 meeting, Board Member Sarah Faust made a recommendation to modify the board’s bylaws to terminate its Land, Facilities and Programs Committee and replace it with a Financial Committee.

Faust said they’ve had discussions going back to May on whether the Land, Facilities and Programs Committee was worth an extra standing committee.

“There was a lot of duplication with full board meetings,” she said. “That discussion just kind of dovetailed with conversations I’ve been having with other board members about the parks board review of the department budget.”

Under the board’s bylaws, the LFP committee advises mainly on development and programmatic issues of public parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities.

A new Financial Committee would focus on funding issues, such as the effects of state law on parks funding, the fee impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic and potential changes to parkland dedication fees.

“The nugget of the idea here is that the full board would benefit from a standing committee of members that are able to develop a more in-depth knowledge of budget issues and additional PARD funding opportunities,” Faust said. “Because of the breadth of matters that we cover at the full board, there’s just not a lot of time to learn about the budget.”

Faust said the committee could also lead to greater partnerships with other advocacy groups that watch Parks and Recreation Department funding.

Faust noted that the board was “pretty far down the schedule” of boards and committees briefed on PARD’s budget.

“The Financial Committee would ideally get to start looking at that budget much earlier in the process when there’s still opportunity to give more helpful feedback,” Faust said.

The committee would set an annual agenda looking at different PARD fees and proposed funding for parks programs, and would have at least two meetings to review PARD’s proposed budget before it’s presented to the full board.

Faust said the Contracts and Concessions Committee would maintain its oversight over requests for proposals and awards for contracts.

Board Member Fred Morgan supported the proposal, noting that the Land, Facilities and Programs Committee that he chairs has only met once this year.

“I think that when we’ve dealt with the budget issues … we’re at the back seat of this whole thing,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with eliminating this committee.”

Board Member Kate Mason-Murphy, who is also on the LFP committee, said the proposal could allow board members to be more proactive on budget issues.

“Some issues might even cross over and be finance issues so I think it’s actually a really good idea,” Board Member Laura Cottam Sajbel added.

The proposal passed unanimously. The bylaw amendment is being forwarded to the city clerk’s office, where the recommendation for the new committee will go to Council’s Audit and Finance Committee, Faust said.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

city budget: The city’s plan for expenditures based on income.

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.

Parks and Recreation Board: The city’s Parks and Recreation Board members deal with the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of Austin’s parks and playgrounds.

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