On Sept. 26, Mayor Murray presented his 2017-2018 Proposed Budget to City Council, and I am pleased to inform you of a few items related to Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) programs and services. The Mayor’s budget makes critical investment in expanding access to our community centers and maintaining our parks as the gems of our city.
Seattle Park District
In 2017, the Seattle Park District will be in year three of its first six-year spending plan. This voter-approved permanent funding to support parks and recreation services is the single biggest change to SPR operations in 100 years. In 2017, we will continue to carry out the initiatives in the spending plan and to report to the Oversight Committee and the public on our progress. By the end of 2017, we will be at the halfway point of this six-year planning cycle – time flies.
Community Center Operations
The proposed 2017 budget shifts $1.3 million in Park District funding from the capital side to the operating side to meet community needs by increasing hours of operation and staffing at centers in neighborhoods with fewer resources to pay for programming. This shift is a recommendation of the draft Community Center Strategic Plan The increases will result in improved participant-to-staff ratios, more capacity to pursue community partnerships, and increased access to the centers for the community. You can learn more by reviewing the Mayor’s press release at http://murray.seattle.gov/mayor-unveils-new-strategic-plan-for-citys-community-centers/.
Non-District Related Changes
As our approach to enlivening downtown parks has evolved, the proposed budget includes the elimination of 1.5 vacant Park Ranger positions. With Park District funding for the Urban Parks Partnership Initiative, we have entered into contracts with downtown entities to provide physical improvements and public programming in downtown parks. Following a pilot project conducted in 2015-16, we entered into a five-year contract with the Downtown Seattle Association to continue to activate Westlake Park and Occidental Square through food trucks, plantings and colorful furniture, games and active play, classes and events, and much more. In 2016, similar agreements were negotiated with Cascade Playground Activation Committee, Jim Ellis Freeway Park Association, InterIm Community Development Association and Friends of Belltown Parks to activate Cascade Playground, Donnie Chin International Children’s Park, Freeway Park, Hing Hay Park, Kobe Terrace Park, and Bell Street Park.
Capital Improvement Plan:
SPR’s 2017 capital budget is growing significantly – from $21 million in 2015 and $59 million in 2016 to $75 million in 2017 and $84 million in 2018. The capital budget maintains a strong commitment to asset preservation. In addition to the almost $37 million worth of projects funded by the Seattle Park District, the projects proposed for REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) revenues are prioritized consistent with SPR’s asset management criteria. Ongoing major maintenance projects, such as environmental remediation, landscape and forest restoration, irrigation system repair, pavement restoration, and replacing major roof and HVAC systems, address basic infrastructure needs across the system. The 2017 budget also provides REET funding for remediation work at Lake Union Park and Victor Steinbrueck Park.
Lake Union Park
The 2017 budget includes $3.6 million to correct problems with settling at Lake Union Park, including the walkways, pedestrian bridge and the park’s pond. After a regular inspection showed movement on the east abutment of the bridge, SPR commissioned a geotechnical assessment that revealed continued settling, which will be corrected through the removal of soil and use of lightweight geofoam.
Victor Steinbrueck Park
A current project funded by the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy is now in the planning phase at the park and includes improving sight lines into the park, renovating seating, renovating the former children’s play area, improving and expanding lighting, and upgrading landscaping. The park sits atop a privately-owned parking garage, and the waterproof membrane between the westerly portion of the park and the parking garage below is failing. The Mayor’s budget includes $3.5 million over two years to make major repairs to, or replace, the membrane.
Athletic Fields Projects
As mentioned below, revenues from increased athletic field use fees will support investments to expand athletic field capacity. By 2018, $600,000 per year in fee revenues will be collected to improve or expand athletic fields. In addition, there is $2.6 million of REET funds to help fund improvements at three fields in 2017-2018: Brighton Playfield, Soundview Playfield and a third field planned to be improved in partnership with another agency.
The Mayor’s proposed budget includes increases in fees for scheduling athletic fields, park event permits (both last increased in 2011) and swimming pools (last increased in 2013). The fee revenues, along with the General Fund, support increases in inflationary costs necessary to provide these amenities and services to the public. The fee increases for athletic fields will also support investments in our fields. By 2018, these athletic field fee increases are estimated to raise an additional $1 million annually. Of that, $600,000 each year will be transferred to the capital budget in order to support field improvement projects.
Overall, the 2017 Proposed Budget is a good news story with the Park District in full swing along with additional investments to help us meet new technology mandates and to expand our operational capacity. The investments outlined in the Mayor’s Proposed Budget will allow Seattle Parks and Recreation to continue to provide exceptional services to our growing community; this is truly an exciting time for SPR.
Please let City Councilmembers know that you support these budget changes by emailing the Council through the Council website or by attending one of the two Council budget hearings scheduled for the following dates:
- October 5, 2016 at 5:30 p.m., Seattle City Hall in Council Chambers; and
- October 25, 2016 at 5:30 p.m., Seattle City Hall in Council Chambers.
Many thanks to you for your continued support of and involvement with our programs and services, and to Mayor Murray for including these proposals as part of his 2017-2018 Proposed Budget.
Seattle Parks and Recreation