Rather than endorsing a compromise proposal, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission is standing its ground and asking the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee to continue a tradition of giving the parks system half of city property tax revenue.
Parks commissioners voted unanimously on Monday night to recommend that the Budget Committee maintain that tradition and also not shift a major portion of the parks' ending fund balance money into city coffers.
The Budget Committee will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St., to approve a two-year budget for all of city operations, including the parks system.
A proposed budget no longer gives half of property tax revenues to the parks system and shifts about half of parks ending fund balance money to the city.
An ad hoc committee charged with looking for a long-term funding mechanism for the parks system had previously proposed a compromise idea of shifting about half of the parks department's ending fund balance money into a reserve fund for Lithia Park, which has numerous maintenance needs.
Although he is on that ad hoc committee, Parks Commissioner Rick Landt said the committee has not had sufficient time to come up with a long-term funding mechanism for parks.
Parks Commissioners said it would be better for them to state clearly to the Budget Committee that they want the parks system to continue receiving half of city property tax revenue, and they don't want to give up a large share of the system's ending fund balance.
"This is what we want," Parks Commissioner Michael Gardiner said.
The semi-independent Parks and Recreation Department had its own tax authority for decades, but that was erased by property tax reform measures approved by Oregon voters in the 1990s.
Since then, the parks department and the overall city government have maintained an informal agreement to give the parks department half of property tax revenues.
That agreement has come under increasing criticism over the past few budgeting cycles.
Mayor John Stromberg and City Administrator Dave Kanner drafted a controversial discussion paper in late 2012 that explored eliminating the property tax split arrangement and shifting about half of parks ending fund balance money to the city.
Historically, the parks department has maintained a large ending fund balance because it relies heavily on property taxes. It needs the money to pay its bills from the start of the fiscal year in July until property tax payments started rolling in in the fall.
The proposed budget for the next two years calls for the city of Ashland to receive all the city property tax money, while the city General Fund would make payments to the parks department — alleviating the need for the department's large ending fund balance.
Parks Commissioners — who are elected by voters — fear the parks system could suffer if they no longer have a reliable source of revenue from property taxes and control over park funding.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.