The Trust for Public Land recently ranked Austin’s park system 46th amongst the 100 largest US cities. It wasn’t exactly the kind of stellar review or ranking that Austin is used to receiving.
Now, a group of environmental organizations are calling on our local elected officials to do something about it.
Austin City Council is currently on summer recess for the month of July, but when they return, most of their energy will be spent on one thing – the city’s budget. Throughout the months of August and September, they’ll be hosting public meetings and hearings on exactly where the city should be spending its money next year. The new budget will go into effect on October 1st.
In response, the Austin Parks Foundation is leading an effort to convince City Council to support a $5 million budget increase for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. On its website, the Austin Parks Foundation explains that these increases are necessary because the department is dealing with a $700 million backlog in repairs and renovations. They also point to the Trust for Public Land ranking, which found that Austin spends $103 per resident each year toward maintaining and enhancing our parks. The top cities spend an average of $208.
Last year’s parks budget was $94.6 million, which was about 9 percent of the city’s $970.6 million general fund budget. The largest percentage (about 70 percent) of the city’s budget goes toward police, fire, and EMS.
At a time when everyone is concerned about rising property taxes and affordability, this year’s budget season is bound to be a contentious one. In a letter to City Council posted on their website, the Austin Parks Foundation acknowledged this, writing that, “We understand the city is in the midst of a challenging budget year and recognize that you have difficult choices to make on the city council. We are asking you to make parks, trails and green spaces a priority in the budget this year.”
And if you would like to share your opinions about the city’s budget (for any city department), you can do so by taking this online survey. The survey closes on July 15th and the results will be shared with City Council.