And now? It’s the question of city parks

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The question, with respect to the parks of the city of Amarillo, has shifted from what now to what. The failure of Proposition A to resonate and mobilize support for municipal parks leaves the city to weigh its options.

Had the proposal been approved, it would have generated revenue primarily for updating, renovating and restoring city parks, which have seen a steady decline in budget commitment since the 1970s. The impacts are many, ranging from facilities with considerable wear and tear to possible lost revenue opportunities for other localities.

For their part, city officials believed they had the support of the community to put the measure on the ballot. Many citizens said so in a public forum. In fact, Michael Kashuba, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said recently that at least 70% of the 7,000 people polled approved an increase in the city’s spending on parks.

But a funny thing happened between that claim and the reality of the November 2 election when 55% voted against the measure while only 10% of registered voters voted. The deal breaker for those who voted was the increase in the property tax, a 22% increase from just the city’s portion of the tax rate. The opposition mobilized quickly and effectively to defeat the proposal.

Either way, the original challenge remains, which means the city must now find a way to move forward on parks within its existing budget. Amarillo City Council is just beginning this conversation.

In other words, difficult choices can present themselves. This is unfortunate, as outdoor recreation spaces were experiencing some kind of renaissance due to the pandemic, providing individuals and families with low-cost or no-cost places that they could frequently visit and enjoy while respecting the standards. social distancing requirements.

From now on, the City will continue to prioritize what it can do in terms of maintaining its parks and recreational facilities. This work was already underway, but now the challenge is how to increase the elasticity of already stretched dollars. According to our history, city officials say that parks require about $ 3.3 to $ 3.8 million annually for park assets. Officials also claim that some $ 50 million (out of a total of about $ 100 million) in assets are down.

“If you don’t inject preventative maintenance back into these items, they start to break down a lot faster,” Kashuba said in our recent article. “What we’ve come across is that a lot of our assets really can’t be fixed; they must be replaced.

It will be the tough decision # 1, to choose which parks and which assets within those parks receive care and attention. Parks have suffered a double whammy of sorts. Maintenance costs have steadily increased, unlike park revenues, while budgetary allocations have remained stable. “The budget was not enough to meet the expenses,” City Manager Jared Miller said in our article.

Doing less with more has been the main operating principle of the parks and one that will now take on greater urgency.

In the beginning, the board appropriately focuses on opportunities to generate income. If adding lights to some facilities results in more usage and raises funds, it seems reasonable to assume that these projects should come to the fore. The same goes for security issues, as Council member Freda Powell pointed out.

“Anything that generates revenue is a dollar well spent,” said Mayor Ginger Nelson. “We cannot organize tournaments after dark. The lighting of our sports fields will generate income through tournaments, and we do not currently generate any money from it. “

Such tournaments would also have side benefits, as they would attract visitors who frequent local restaurants, retailers and hoteliers, which would have a direct impact on the local economy. The more events Amarillo can host the better, and the city is expected to be the regional destination for the multitude of youth sport-related events that populate the calendar year-round.

The Council took a step in this direction by taking the decision to redevelop five sports complexes in existing parks at a cost of approximately $ 100,000 previously budgeted.

The future of city parks may depend in large part on how they can be self-sustaining in the future. Maximizing these opportunities can better answer the current question of what now.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: And now? This is the question of Amarillo parks


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