City parks need dedicated funds
The parks and recreation system Ashland residents have enjoyed for the past 100 years has depended on dedicated resources (property tax revenues). Now some city councilors have teamed up with the city administrator to un-dedicate those funds. They claim that taking tax money from parks is necessary in order to make more money available for other city purposes.
The elected Parks Commission over the decades has developed and managed an enviable parks system and large variety of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors of all ages. It has done so within the limits of its traditional share of our property taxes, maintaining an ending fund balance to budget for needed first-quarter expenses, large projects and unforeseen events. This constitutes responsible and conservative management of resources.
Now many who represent "the city" claim that, since they have committed all of their traditional share of property taxes, they need to take part of Parks' share in order to make ends meet. The proposed shifting of funds and change of budgeting authority is not just a minor bookkeeping detail; it would undermine the guidance of our city charter, which provides for both an elected commission to oversee parks and a dedicated source of revenue. The charter language clearly expresses the value Ashlanders have placed on our parks and the intent to provide a dependable source of funding.
If this change in budget authority takes effect, we could well see on-the-ground consequences we don't want. Imagine your neighborhood park (or the park that has been promised your neighborhood), the trails at Oredson-Todd Woods, the tennis courts, the dog park, the golf course, Lithia Park. Think of how you and your family and neighbors have benefited from a craft class, a program at the Senior Center, a class at North Mountain Park, or a child learning to swim.
The Parks Commission plans, develops, and cares for such places and activities that give our city a healthy, beautiful and welcoming character. Stripping the commission of the power to set park goals and budget priorities will result in declining resources, decreasing opportunities, and deteriorating public places. We would be living in a different and diminished community from the one I have been a part of for the past 40 years. It would not be the one provided for by our city charter over 100 years ago.
There are other choices. Those working on a new model for budgeting might look to other city department budgets and revenue streams with the same energy and determination they are now exerting to defund our parks system.