Parks and Rec Shocker: More Money
PARD to get its biggest budget bump in years
It's not exactly a windfall, but the Parks and Recreation Department could get its biggest funding boost in years with the $62.8 million proposal on the table – up about 12% over the last fiscal year.
At least on paper, the new funding package doesn't carry gloom-and-doom messages of potential closures of pools and community centers. However, PARD Director Sara Hensley notes in her introduction to the budget that the department will "continue to focus on creating public-private partnerships." In the past, even the suggestion of such partnerships has sparked public outcries – most recently, in May over PARD's proposal (scuttled, for now) to hire a private company or nonprofit to operate the popular Zilker Botanical Garden. During last year's budget process, the Austin Recreation Center and Dottie Jordan Recreation Center were also being considered for private management because of funding shortages at PARD; after protests, City Council added funding to keep the rec centers open and under public control. In the new fiscal year, PARD plans to sink half a million dollars into maintenance and repair of aging rec centers in East Austin, including Dottie Jordan.
PARD is proposing a spending plan of about $30 million for capital projects (with most of the funding coming from the 2006 bond program), including upgrades to the 24-year-old Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, the renovation of Bartholomew Pool, and trail work near the Shoal Creek Green Belt. Additionally, improvements to Auditorium Shores will be paid for through a $1 million grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Urban Outdoor Recreation program.
The newest addition to the PARD portfolio – the Asian-American Resource Center (another product of the 2006 bond package) – is slated to open its doors in April 2013. About $500,000 has been set aside to fill six positions at the facility, currently under construction on Cameron Road north of Research Boulevard.