RPD Budget Process Update: Important Innovation and Tough Choices

RPD LogoFebruary 19, 2010: Now that the Recreation and Park Commission has approved the Department’s plan for accommodating the 30% reduction ($12.4 million) in support from the City’s General Fund, the lengthy process begins for the Mayor’s Office and Board of Supervisors to build out San Francisco’s Budget. Over the next several months, the City will be working to tackle and immense budget shortfall of more than $450 million, and their choices will affect parks. NPC will be engaging in this process and we will keep you in the loop.

The good news is that there are a number of innovative solutions proposed by the Recreation and Park Department (RPD) that will deal with the budget shortfall, and could change the way that RPD operates for the better.

While NPC does not support every aspect of the proposed budget cuts and revenue generation ideas put forth by RPD (more on that below), there are several key initiatives that we are very excited about.  You can view the two presentations from RPD on the budget and changes to recreation here (Full Commission Presentation | Recreation Changes Presentation). Once you have read this post and review these presentations, please let us know what you think. Send emails to council@sfnpc.org.

NPC Supports the Following Key Elements:

1. RPD connected the budget process directly to the mission and principals of the Department. NPC feels strongly that all revenue generation and expenditure cuts must be made within the context of RPD’s mission, and must be as responsive to neighborhood park and recreation needs as possible. While conversations will continue for several months about the details of the budget, park advocates can see how RPD linked the proposed plan to the mission in the budget presentation.

2. RPD and Local 261 are establishing the first Gardener Apprentice Program in the state of California.  This means career-track development of horticultural professionals who will hone their skills both in the field and in the classroom. The move to employ apprentices allows RPD to save on labor costs while hiring new staff.

3. RPD is restructuring recreation in a manner that will result in more program hours and allow recreation professionals to focus on their areas of expertise: sports and athletics, community services (like tiny tots), cultural arts, and leisure services (like waterfront sports). While there will be reductions in recreation staff, the goal with the new recreation model is to increase what RPD can offer and position the Department for growth when funding becomes more stable. RPD has also committed to ensure that the ability to pay is never a barrier to participation. It is worth looking at the Recreation Changes Presentation and sharing this new model, a national best practice, with your park group.

4. RPD, Local 261 and NPC are working to pilot a partnership to maintain mini parks in San Francisco, a move that would increase the overall maintenance of the mini parks and leverage additional support of the surrounding communities. (This is a revenue-neutral, but community- positive, budget element.)

5. New amenities and programs that will generate revenue and activate park space. NPC believes there are opportunities to generate revenue in appropriate ways in our parks. Many people enjoy the ability to get a bite to eat and a cup of coffee while at Crissy Field, and that concept can be adapted for our city parks. Additionally, there are many types of adult recreation that San Franciscans enjoy that are not currently being offered by RPD.

NPC Does Not Support:

  1. The sale or long-term lease of parkland for non-park uses. Parkland is too precious and hard to come by to sell as a one-time solution to a budget problem.
  2. Using fees to solve the budget crisis. Fees directed at park users should be a last resort for solving a budget crisis.
  1. Generating revenue in a manner that does not compliment or enhance neighborhood park character.

As our past updates have told you, NPC is committed to helping RPD build a more stable finance package to avoid the severe cuts faced by the Department over the last several years.

Again, we would like to know what you think. Please email your thoughts to council@sfnpc.org and stay tuned for more information on the budget, especially for opportunities to participate.

For information on the proposed non-resident entrance fees to the Botanical Garden, please click here.

Thank you for loving your parks!

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