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Parks

The City is currently discussing the parks budget.  In November 2006, voters approved an increased parks millage.  To reassure voters that the increased parks millage would not turn into a backdoor tax for other general fund spending, council promised that general fund parks spending would increase and decrease at the same rate as other general fund spending.  But that's not what happened. 

We compared audited figures for general fund spending for FY2007 through FY2010 and figures from the Expense Budget worksheet report (on the city's data catalog) for FY11 and FY12.  Those figures show that total general fund operating expenses increased 1% between FY07 and FY12 but parks spending declined 25%.  The savings from cutting parks did not go to police and fire.  Those expenses saw a 1% increase while the increase for all other general fund departments except police, fire and parks went up 7%.
 
In the very first year the city got the increased millage (FY08) general fund spending increased 2% from the prior year but parks general fund spending declined 11%.  Former Council member Bob Johnson tried to get council to restore the money to parks but could only get council to agree to give back half the amount it would take to keep parks spending at the same rate of growth as total general fund spending.
 
The parks operations budget is getting another big hit in the FY12 budget.  Parks and Rec has been given marching orders to explain why a 16% ($447,029) cut in the parks operations general fund budget is really a 7% ($178,133) cut.  But the city's own figures show that only 1% of expenses were actually picked up by other funds, bringing the real service cut to 15%, not 7%.  $19,700 of the cut is described as a revenue shortfall (Ann Arbor Rec & Ed).  That boils down to spending $19,700 less on maintaining ball diamonds, which is still a service cut.  $36,809 of the $447,029 cut is described as a transfer of general fund forestry expenses to the stormwater fund.  The problem is that the detailed expense breakdown in the Expense Budget Worksheet report do not report any parks operations general fund forestry expenses for FY11 so there are no expenses to move.  The final explanation to bring the 16% cut to 7% is transferring $212,387 in services from the parks operations general fund budget to the Metro Expansion fund.  Looking at the figures for Metro Expansion in the worksheet report shows that metro expansion expenses increased $47,922 between Fy11 and FY12, not $212,387.

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