Residents continue campaign against budget cuts to parks
A group of residents is continuing a campaign against proposed budget cuts to local parks after city staffers this week did not support the group’s proposals.
The group, called Rescue Sacramento Parks, has pitched the City Council several proposals to sustain parks services as the city addresses its projected $50 million deficit for the 2009/2010 fiscal year.
Among many other proposed budget cuts, the city is proposing to slash about $8.3 million and 145 positions from its Department of Parks and Recreation. Rescue Sacramento Parks is worried the proposed cuts to parks will lead to blight and public health and safety problems.
Craig Powell, the group’s chairman, said some of the group’s members will meet Thursday with Parks and Recreation staff “in an effort to find a solution.”
Rescue Sacramento Parks also plans to spread its message to more neighborhood associations, according to Powell. The group’s members participate in neighborhood groups.
Among other suggestions, the group asked City Council to work with the private sector for park maintenance and study whether the city can make more cuts to recreation programs. The group argues that more reductions to recreation programs could lessen the damage to park maintenance services. The City Council last week asked city staffers to analyze the group’s proposals.
In a report to the City Council this week, city staff agreed with residents that privatization of services would save money, but also pointed out drawbacks to the group’s idea.
Moving park maintenance services to the private sector would save an amount of money “estimated to be in excess of 40 percent,” the city staff report notes.
But the cost savings would have downsides, according to the report. “However, the service level would be minimal and response to customers would be reduced,” the report states. “Privatization of basic park maintenance would continue to require city staff to provide contract management and inspection, and more specialized services including irrigation system oversight and emergency repair and oversight of park facilities such as playgrounds, tot lots, all-weather fields, sports courts, picnic and seating areas.”
City staff also wrote that recreation programs should not face cuts on top of the reductions already planned. The department “does not agree that park maintenance should be fully restored at the expense of recreation programs and services; park planning, design and development; grant administration; and other crucial administrative and fiscal services,” the report states.
Rescue Sacramento Parks appreciated the City Council’s decision last week to ask city staff to study the group’s proposals, according to Powell.
But the group is upset that the City Council is not moving on the idea to work with the private sector on park maintenance services. The group is “very disappointed at the Council’s unwillingness to seize the opportunity to save millions of taxpayer dollars while simultaneously restoring basic park maintenance through privatization of park maintenance,” Powell said.
The group had suggested that the city use privatization as a bargaining chip with one of the city’s major unions, Stationary Engineers Local 39. Rescue Sacramento Parks proposed that the city work with the private sector for park maintenance services if Local 39, which includes parks workers, does not make concessions.
Local 39 is currently in negotiations with the city. Joan Bryant, director of public employees for Local 39, was not immediately available to return phone calls Wednesday afternoon.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.