I love our parks! I run or walk on the trails almost every day!
However, I am opposed to allocating 98% of the Food and Beverage tax (FBT) to Ashland Parks and Recreation District (APRD) for three reasons:
- The only serious review of the APRD budget occurs when APRD makes its annual request for property tax distribution. For whatever reason, citizens are not lining up to run for seats on the Parks commission, so the commission as it currently stands is not accountable to voters in any meaningful way: they are earnest volunteers. In the very dry meetings I have watched, I have not observed any serious pushback to Director Black’s proposed expenditures. They seem to represent a constituency believing that Parks should be the last place to tighten belts when money is scarce. At least the City Council has to face contested elections and defend their choices.
- Article 19, Section 3 of the City Charter states that the City may allocate APRD up to 4.5 mills on the dollar for park purposes. I don’t see any mention of amending the Charter to remove this entitlement if the FBT is completely allocated to APRD, so potentially APRD could ask for funds beyond FBT if, for example, Ashland has a weak FBT year. As Director Black noted in the February 2023 meeting, mill levys are a percentage of property values, and property values almost always increase; therefore, even if the percentage is fixed, the actual dollars generally increase from year to year as well. It seems that property tax would be a more reliable funding source, the only problem being the need to justify expenditures to the Council. And Council must fund the Parks, but the Parks commission may “cause a careful estimate to be made of the money required for park purposes for the ensuing year and file the same with the City Recorder.” There is no similar requirement for publicly accessible budgets in the FBT proposal.
- Permanently devoting a funding stream to any one area reduces Council flexibility to shift money around in times of need. If we trust them enough to elect them, we should trust them enough to decide when those accommodations must be made.
I am not opposed to being taxed and before I retired from teaching, I paid income tax at a higher rate than Mitt Romney without complaint! However, I believe that expenditures of public funds require true oversight.