If it's Parks versus the city, no one wins
As the city of Ashland struggles with its budget, any change in the perceived status quo with the Parks Department becomes a rallying cry.
Our parks system is threatened!
This was made very clear last year, with claims that the city was undermining Parks authority. This continued, despite the fact that the Parks Department was given every dollar of spending they asked for. It has continued with Parks Commissioner and Councilor-Elect Rich Rosenthal's guest opinion on Dec. 20. Reading it, you would think the world was about to end.
Yes, it is true that the charter gave the Parks Commission its own tax authority. The amount set in the Charter is "4.5 mils on the dollar" of property tax. In other words, 4.5 cents per thousand dollars of assesed valuation. Last year, Parks was given $2.09 per thousand.
Now to be fair, when the Parks levy was added to the charter, the city portion was limited to 15 cents per thousand, so if you do the math, the Parks authority would be just less than 25 percent of the total city levy. The city has generously apportioned about half of our property tax to parks, paying for police, fire, administration and more out of the other half.
If the Parks Commission wants the authority the charter gives them, a substantial cut would be in order. I doubt that is really what they want.
So where do we go from here? Well, let's cut back on the rhetoric and "us versus them" arguments. I agree with Mr. Rosenthal's second-to-last paragraph:
"A more pragmatic approach to the perceived parks funding 'problem' would be for the City Council to work with the Parks Commission on a win-win funding model that preserves the integrity of the city charter and provides assurance Ashland's stellar parks system will remain on reliable fiscal ground for generations to come."
I would only add that to be a win-win, that model must ensure that the rest of the city is also on reliable fiscal ground.
Russ Silbiger, retiring city councilor