The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission has asked city officials to refrain from taking money from the parks department to bolster the general fund until they fully disclose why and the move has been approved by the City Council or voters.
Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to support the resolution brought forward by Commissioner Rick Landt.
The resolution also calls on City Administrator Dave Kanner to explain how the Parks Commission could maintain its city charter-given independence without control over the parks budget.
Historically, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department had its own taxing authority, but that disappeared when Oregon voters approved measures that consolidated tax levies in the 1990s.
The city has been giving half of property tax revenues to the parks department to honor its historically semi-independent status.
But in recent years, Citizens Budget Committee members and others have suggested the parks department budget should be weighed against other city priorities.
In late 2012, Mayor John Stromberg and Kanner proposed transferring $650,000 to $1.8 million from the parks department's ending fund balance to the city's general fund.
At Monday night's meeting, Kanner said that Ashland so far has been able to avoid making many of the hard financial choices that other communities faced in the wake of statewide property tax changes.
"We're at a threshold that has been a long time coming," Kanner said.
He said there needs to be a community conversation about parks funding and other city needs.
"We all want what's best for Ashland. We can't devolve into warring camps," Kanner said.
Parks commissioners said they have felt left out of the process and fear they will lose their independent ability to make decisions on spending for parks system needs.
"I'm convinced that the Parks Commission will have less control over what projects go forward for parks," Commissioner Stefani Seffinger said.
Time is running short for the commission to have an impact on city government-wide budget decisions.
Kanner said that commissioners and residents concerned about parks funding issues will have to make their case before the Citizens' Budget Committee, which kicks off a series of meetings to craft a two-year budget beginning on Wednesday, May 1.
That meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
The Citizens' Budget Committee is made up of the mayor, the six-member City Council and seven residents.
After several May meetings, the committee will ultimately vote to approve budgets for all city departments and set the city property tax rate.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.