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Superintendent’s Message: The Mayor’s 2016 Proposed Budget

Earlier this week, Mayor Murray presented his 2016 Proposed Budget to City Council.  I’d like to provide you with an overview of what is included for Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR). Overall, the news is very positive for the department and for parks and recreation services and programs throughout the city.

Seattle Park District              

Most of the changes affecting our budget are related to last year’s passage of Proposition 1 and the creation of the Seattle Park District. The Seattle Park District provides a new taxing district and revenue source to fund increased parks and recreation services and capital projects. The voter-approved creation of permanent funding that supports parks and recreation services is the single biggest change that has occurred for the department in the past 100 years. 

2016 marks the first full year of funding for Park District initiatives at more than $47 million annually for combined operating and capital initiatives. Program and project highlights include:

Programs for People: The District continues the increased funding to support additional staffing and services at our community centers, in our teen programs, lifelong recreation programs and special populations programs that began in 2015. There is also funding to support partnering with the community as we implement three new initiatives – Recreation Opportunities for All, the Get Moving Fund and the Arts in the Parks initiative. Resources are also added to update the CLASS registration system.

Fix it First:  Next year, there is approximately $25 million to fund capital investments to reduce our major maintenance backlog, and further invest in restoring our urban forests. In addition there are one-time funds to continue implementing a new Asset Management and Work Order system to better track our assets and plan our work.

Maintaining Parks and Facilities: Funding to support increased park maintenance and preventative maintenance that began mid-2015 is fully funded starting in 2016. There will also be resources to improve existing off leash areas and p-patches through increased maintenance and updates to aging infrastructure.  Furthermore, 2016 sees an increase in animal control services in “hot spot” parks to enforce leash and scoop laws.

Building for the Future:  In 2016, planning and development begins for five of the 14 sites acquired and “land-banked” with 2008 Levy funds and to begin development of Smith Cove Park.  There will also be funds to activate and connect greenways with our parks, to leverage future acquisitions, and for community groups to leverage their resources aimed at significantly renovating SPR facilities.

Performance Management Initiative: Another significant effort funded in part by the Park District is the development of a performance-based framework to allow Seattle Parks and Recreation to review our progress in delivering services in the most effective and cost efficient way.


Non-District Related Changes

While most of the changes affecting the 2016 Proposed Budget are related to the Park District, I would like to highlight a few of the non-District related changes.

Moorages: The department owns two moorages on Lake Washington. The current operator’s contract has come to an end, and we will be taking over operations until we find a long-term agreement with a partner to operate the moorages. The 2016 budget includes temporary funding to operate the moorages and perform needed upkeep and basic repairs.

New Mayor’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD): OPCD is a brand new office that will support the Mayor’s vision of building thriving communities with a mix of amenities, open space, transportation, utilities, affordable housing, and economic opportunity. As such, this new office will work across City departments, including Seattle Parks and Recreation, to assess community needs, prioritize resources, develop a vision for how our neighborhoods grow and develop, and ensure that we are coordinating and implementing our plans with a cohesive vision.

Operational Efficiencies: The 2016 budget reflects an organizational change implemented mid-2015 with the community centers being reorganized into four geo-teams rather than five.  In addition, Aquatics is reallocating resources to open two swimming beaches a month early and provide safe recreational opportunities for Seattleites looking to enjoy the trend of warmer spring temperatures. With this change, East Green Lake Beach and Madrona Beach will have limited lifeguarding beginning Memorial Day weekend in 2016.

Capital Improvement Plan: SPR’s 2016 CIP maintains a strong commitment to asset preservation. In addition to the projects funded by the Seattle Park District, the projects proposed for REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) 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 2016 CIP also provides REET for capital maintenance at Bell Harbor Marina ($1 million), algae reduction treatment at Green Lake ($1.2 million), and moorage improvements ($2 million).

Overall, the 2016 Proposed Budget is a good news for Seattle residents and neighborhoods 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.

If you’re interested in commenting on the Mayor’s Proposed Budget, you can attend one of the two City Council budget hearings scheduled for the following dates:

  • October 6, 2015 @ 5:30 p.m., Seattle City Hall in Council Chamber; and
  • October 20, 2015 @ 5:30 p.m., Seattle City Hall in Council Chambers.

For more information, see:

Thank you for your interest in and support of our precious park and recreation system.

Jesús Aguirre