The Austin Chronicle

Parks and Rec Shocker: More Money

By Amy Smith, August 31, 2012, News

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.

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