Mayor Ginger Nelson said on Thursday, the city’s proposed property tax increase would allow for improvements, which would be part of the proposed 2021-2022 budget. At the current tax rate, she said there is not funding for all of those needs.
According to the city, the parks department owns $100 million in assets, and nearly $50 million are at high risk.
Mayor Nelson said regular maintenance is the best way to keep it all functioning.
“We know that our parks assets are failing. It creates somewhat of an asset failure cliff like it’s all failing at the same time, and the older it gets, the quicker it is going to fail. So how are we going to address this? This is something the city council started working on two years ago,” she said.
But, she said that necessary maintenance is not happening for all parks assets.
The city said in the past ten years, funding for Parks and Recreation asset maintenance has dropped sharply, from $1.5 million each year down to $100,000.
“We have steeply changed the amount of funds that we’re investing into our parks and you know, that comes down to—you’d have to ask those councils who’ve made those decisions,” Mayor Nelson said. “But it’s a funding decision, we only have so many dollars that come in at our current tax rate. Inevitably, we prioritize public safety, we prioritize repairing roads, and so parks is not at the top of the list.”
She said parks all across the city are in disrepair, and much of the lighting and electrical is 55 to 60 years old.
“What that low tax rate looks like for our city is eventually we, in the budget, don’t have enough dollars to go around to fund all the department’s needs.”
Director of Parks and Recreation, Michael Kashuba, said just to maintain existing assets, the city needs to spend much more annually.
“We should be spending somewhere between $3.3 million and $3.8 million every year. Our current budget is about $100,000 to fix those existing items,” Kashuba said. “So, that leaves a deficit of just over $3 million every year to fix things like toilets, restrooms, benches, and trash cans.”
This summer, the city reached out for community input on the Parks Master Plan as the city council weighed its options moving forward.
“We do value keeping our tax rate low but now we need to address what does our tax rate need to be in order to meet the needs of our park system? Because parks are a vital part of quality of life and just enjoyment in supporting families in our city,” Mayor Nelson said.
If voters don’t approve Amarillo’s proposed property tax increase later this year, the city said some parks improvements would have to be pared back to fit the budget.
Click here to learn more about the Parks Master Plan.