Staff Proposes Draconian Parks and Recreation Budget Cuts if Measure D Fails on June 5 – Council Defers Discussion

parks-taxBy Alan Pryor,

Yes on Measure D for Davis (

What is the Parks Maintenance Tax (Measure D)?

Measure D is a City measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot to renew the current Parks Maintenance Tax that was first approved by voters in 1998.  It was renewed by 79% of the voters in 2002 and 70% of the voters in 2006.  If approved by at least two-thirds of the voters in June 2012, Measure D would again renew the current Parks Maintenance Tax at the same rate of $49 annually for residential parcels and $40 per 1,000 sq. ft. for non-residential parcels, not to exceed a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. If approved, the tax would expire in six years (2018) if not renewed. The current ballot measure includes the same exemption for low-income residents as the current Parks Maintenance Tax.

The ballot measure reads as follows:

Shall Ordinance No. 2387 which extends for six years the existing Parks Maintenance Tax of $49 per year of residential units and on non-residential units in amounts specified in the Ordinance, to fund maintenance of parks, street trees, greenbelts, bike paths, medians, public landscaping, urban wildlife and habitat, swimming pools, and recreational facilities, be adopted?

Current Use of Parks Maintenance Tax Revenue by the City

The City maintains a number of “Special Funds,” which can only be used for specific purposes, such as the federal, state and county grants that the City administers. The Parks Maintenance Tax is considered a Special Fund because it can only be spent on maintenance for parks and related public facilities. The General Fund, on the other hand, is the primary funding source for City services, such as general government, recreation programs, the majority of parks maintenance, fire services and police protection. Having the Parks Maintenance Tax assist with the maintenance of parks, greenbelts, trees and pool complexes allows General Fund dollars to be spent on other City services.

The following table summarizes the current distribution of the Parks Tax revenue and shows what percentage of services the tax covers.



Total Costs

General Fund Portion of Costs


Maintenance Funding

Fee/Other Funding

% of Total Cost Funded by Parks Tax

Community and Neighborhood Parks


















Street Trees






Open Space






Vandalism/Graffiti Abatement






Sub-Total Parks Services






Pool total






Community Park Pool






Manor Pool






Civic Center Pool






Arroyo Pool


















Proposed Budget Cuts if Measure D Fails

According to Staff’s proposal to the City Council on May 1, 2012 (see Staff’s report in the May 1, 2012 Council Agenda Packet – scroll down to item 11 near the bottom), “Should the Park Tax measure fail to pass in June, the loss of $1,344,000 in revenue would require corresponding adjustments to the FY2012/13 budget. To that end, staff has prepared information to initiate the discussion about potential reductions and is requesting input from the City Council regarding the budget reduction scenarios”. The following table shows the options staff considered in arriving at the recommendations included in the report

Staff’s recommended “Option A” assumes the entire $1.3M in lost revenue resulting from the ballot failure is borne by the Parks and Recreation budget. Also included in the table is a 2nd option (“Option B”) which was presented to the Council to consider which spreads some of the required $1.3M in cuts over other areas in the General Fund.

Option A

Option B


Parks Reduction


City Manager’s Proposal


Community Development & Sustainability





Community Services















Public Works










Option “A” – Reductions exclusive to Park Services

Over the last four years, according to the Staff report, “the Community Services Department has undergone several rounds of organizational changes and significant budget reductions totaling over $1.6 million. While these reductions have helped us create further efficiencies in many areas, in other areas, we have had to modify the maintenance and service levels of our park maintenance and related operations.”

Should Measure D fail and all cuts come from the Parks Division as suggested by Staff, cuts would reduce overall Landscape & Park Maintenance to the tune of $1,344,000 equivalent to 16.25 full time employees.

In particular, Staff is proposing that these cuts would result in overall significant drops in service levels in all parks, greenbelts & streetscape with two crews for all park maintenance. For instance, there will be elimination of all weekend coverage at all park facilities including restroom cleaning and trash pickup.

The frequency of mowing, pruning, routine and preventive maintenance performed will be reduced by 50%. For instance, the lawn mowing schedule will be reduced to once every other week instead of once per week. There will also be elimination of routine secondary mowing and edging of most turf areas and elimination of preventive/routine tree pruning. There will also be a dramatic reduction of regular maintenance and weed abatement for open space areas.

There will likely be a reduction in integrated pest management efforts to reduce pesticide use. This could result in increased reliance on less labor intensive and conventional chemical methods of weed control if Staff determines this is less expensive. There will be also be delays in graffiti abatement responses. The public can expect to see graffiti around a lot longer than the current standard abatement response time of 24-48 hours.

Overall, it is clear that the public can expect some pretty ill-maintained and shabby looking parks and greenbelts if Measure D fails and the entire budget burden is borne solely by the Recreation and Parks budget.

Option “B” – City Manager Recommendation

According to Staff’s report, “While some would argue that reductions related to elimination of a Parks Tax should come exclusively from Parks Services, staff recommendation takes a different position. The Parks Maintenance Tax is considered a special revenue in support of General Fund expenses, therefore when it declines or is eliminated, those expenses revert back to the General Fund. This makes the burden for reductions classified as a “General Fund” problem. Under this assumption, staff recommends looking at a Citywide General Fund reduction as a more appropriate scenario when considering the loss of this special revenue.”

The criteria used for establishing the list of service reductions in this recommendation were:

1) At least 50% of the burden should be related to Parks Services

2) The balance of service reductions should be taken from other departments with the following considerations:

a) Current vacancies in which work load can be redistributed or eliminated

b) Services that are currently under review for service delivery changes and/or where efficiencies may be realized through restructuring

c) Prior cumulative General Fund impacts on departments and tolerance levels for additional reductions

Option B anticipates reductions in citywide services equaling $1,345,000 equivalent to 14.0 Full time employees. Staff is proposing that these cuts would have many of the same negative service impacts on parks and greenbelt upkeep only somewhat less severe.

Overall, there will still be significant drop in service levels in all parks, greenbelts & streetscapes  with only three crews for all park maintenance (vs. two crews as projected above). There will still be elimination of all weekend coverage at all park facilities including restroom cleaning and trash pickup and a reduction in integrated pest management compliance. Mowing and pruning frequency will still be reduced by 50% along with elimination of secondary mowing and turf border edging.

Other departmental and staff reductions would be affected as follows:

a) Elimination of the City GEM Electric Car program

b) Reduction in Park planning professional services

c) Reduction in Fire relief personnel which will require adjustment to call-back and minimum staffing standards

d) Conversion to volunteer assistance for parking lot enforcement

e) Revenue enhancement of 10% for Parking Citation fines

f) Reduction in capital improvement engineering resources

Finally, Staff proposed in their report that detailed listings of these proposals and the impacts will be revisited as part of the FY 12/13 budget hearings should the Measure D – Park Maintenance Tax renewal fail to receive the required level of voter support for passage on June 5.

Council Response

This agenda came up before the Council at 11:00 PM instead of at 9:00 PM as anticipated. After City Manager Steve Pinkerton introduced the agenda item by stating that he was giving an informational presentation only with no Council actions anticipated, Mayor Krovoza suggested that the matter might be held over until the next meeting so it could be heard in a more thorough manner. Councilmember Souza stated he thought the matter was important enough to devote at least 15 minutes to a presentation but eventually agreed to postponement after Councilmember Swanson requested it be the first item on the Council agenda to give the information public prominence.

Author’s Remarks

As Treasurer of the Yes on Measure D committee, I obviously am a strong proponent for passage of this parcel tax. I am convinced our parks and bike paths are the brightest jewels of Davis that make us absolutely unique as a city.

There are a lot of active college towns in California and many have vibrant, multi-use downtowns like Davis.  There are also a lot of cities in the state with excellent schools and top notch safety professionals like in Davis. But there is absolutely no place in the country that has the combination of community and neighborhood parks and the network of interconnecting bike corridors as we have in Davis. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons we still have the highest bike-modal transportation rate in the country

In my opinion, maintaining these parks and bike paths is clearly advantageous to Davis residents in terms of the livability of the community and the value of our homes compared to surrounding communities. And I think these benefits we receive from the proper maintenance of our parks and green belts and bike paths is easily worth the extra $4 per month this tax will impose on a Davis homeowner.

If 2/3rds of the citizens of Davis are not so inclined on June 5 and Measure D fails, however, I expect that a lot more heated conversations will occur within the community as these $1.34M in budget cuts must be implemented.

About The Author

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  1. JustSaying

    Alan is correct about the vital role our parks and parks programs play in the quality of life in Davis. Passing Measure D is critical.

    Some of these proposals should proceed regardless. And we need to reduce costs of maintainig needed personnel.

    Cutting backless important non-pack city programs should get prompt attention. And, Alan, why are we spending money on planning for a “competition level” pool when we cannot keep open the pools we have and the university has the best one in the UC system?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “Cutting backless important non-pack city programs should get prompt attention. “

    One point of concern that I have and we have now been asked in 2010 to renew the sales tax and in 2012 to renew the parks tax, and we still have not seen a full accounting of the future budget, and what our needs are, and where we need to cut. Until we do that, we are basically perpetuating the same problem that we have had.

    That being said, I’m not opposed to the parks tax at this point, it’s fairly obvious if we subtract another million from the budget, that would be a bad thing since a lot of these are fixed costs.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    I tend to be fiscally conservative, and am always reluctant in regard to passing existing tax measures (have they truly serve the public interest?) or increasing taxes (has the money been well spent or squandered irresponsibly). BUT EVEN I HAVE SIGNED ON TO SUPPORT MEASURE D. Because the city is so densely populated, so that houses are practically on top of each other (I’m from the East Coast where people actually have decent sized yards), our parks are essential components of our way of living. They offer green oxygenating, rejuvenating, recreating areas for everyone to enjoy “for free” no matter your income. With water issues on the horizon, the city may be a need to retool some of the parks to not include so much grass. Our parks, greenbelts, bike paths, etc. are essential to maintaining Davis’ quality of life. I strongly support Measure D…

  4. Frankly

    I’m on the broken fence on this one. I generally support infrastructure development and maintenance as being justified government-run business. Well-maintained parks enhance overall quality of life and help protect property values in town. However, the reason that we require supplemental parcel taxes to fund maintenance to our parks is because we are spending way too much on public-sector pensions and healthcare. In terms of a solution, I’m looking at this as a short-term-temporary versus long-term-permanent. If we continue to tax and fund our necessary services this way, then it becomes the new normal and we take pressure off the need for the long-term permanent solutions.

    The reality is that we cannot afford the rich pension and healthcare benefits that are responsible for most of our state and municipal budget problems.

    We have a severe and perpetual spending problem, and other than the impact of the recession, we do not have a revenue problem.

    Total state and local government spending as a percentage of state GDP has steadily increased. In 1992 it was 19.9% of DGP. In 2008 (before the recession) it was 21.5% of GDP. IN 2010 it was 22.7 % of GDP. On top of this we have ballooning unfunded public-sector retiree pension and healthcare expenses.

    Until we get the spending problem solved, I am not in favor of supplementing the revenue shortfalls.

    However, I don’t want the parks and bike paths to decline.

    So, I am still on the broken fence for now.

  5. CCRussell

    Replying to “JustSaying” regarding the Community Pool question you raised:
    -All that is going on now is a feasibility study. It might be that a conversion of the pool is not feasible. It might show that by reconfiguring things, AND getting increased financial support from the swimming community, that this is not only feasible but it actually saves us money. That is the point of doing a study. Several user groups approached the city and said that they would be interested in providing additional financial support. So it is being studied.

    -Community pool is closed (although Aquadarts will open it for the summer, paying the full cost of having it reopened temporarily), part of the issue is that the pool is old and expensive to run/maintain. A new facility would be more efficient and less costly to run.

    -The funds for the feasibility study are taken from the capital improvement fund – these are funds that cannot be used for maintenance. Measure D is a maintenance issue, operating funds, which is totally separate.

    -Regarding the UCD pool, unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts many city and school groups cannot get adequate time there. It is overbooked, and often not available at times when the city groups would like to use it.

    -City pools are overbooked as well, and we are always getting requests for more pool time of particular types than we can supply.

    A revamped pool facility at Community Park may make a lot of sense, but most likely only if the swimming community steps in to provide more funding than they do now. That is the purpose of the feasibility study – to see if we can come up with something that makes sense.

  6. wdf1

    JB: [i]Total state and local government spending as a percentage of state GDP has steadily increased. In 1992 it was 19.9% of DGP. In 2008 (before the recession) it was 21.5% of GDP. IN 2010 it was 22.7 % of GDP.[/i]

    What do you think is the appropriate ratio to GDP and why?

  7. JustSaying

    CCRussell, thanks for the background. It makes sense. However, it sounds as though the rich kids (the Aquadarts) will get to swim in the expensive to operate this summer and the poor ones won’t. It’s a shame our city can’t provide better support for the whole community of swimmers.

  8. CCRussell

    Well, JustSaying, keep in mind that we have Manor Pool and Arroyo Pool open to everyone (for an entrance fee). Both are better for community swim as they are more up to date facilities and have features that are well suited to rec use.

    Community Pool was closed due to the budget issues. That, and it is aging and getting harder to keep open (more expensive). I wouldn’t knock Aquadarts for stepping in and paying additional fees (those families all pay city taxes like the rest of us) to open up something that the City Council closed due to budget constraints.

    I don’t participate in Aquadarts myself so I don’t know details of their particular programs. Looking at their web site, I see that they have a scholarship program for families in need, so it isn’t just “the rich kids” that have access through that program.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Until we get the spending problem solved, I am not in favor of supplementing the revenue shortfalls.

    However, I don’t want the parks and bike paths to decline.

    So, I am still on the broken fence for now.[/quote]

    I can appreciate your dilemma. It is much the same as the one I have wrestled with. But I have decided to support Measure D (w some reluctance) bc without it I think the city will be in a whole world of hurt to maintain our parks…

  10. CCRussell

    I think that most people would agree that our local budget situation (and local tax situation) needs to be resolved, that what we have not is not the long term solution. However, until we have a good overall solution, we can’t ignore the short term needs. Is Measure D the solution to all our problems? Certainly not. But until a more comprehensive solution is worked out, I believe that we need this particular tax to hold on to what we have now.

  11. Frankly

    [i]”Certainly not. But until a more comprehensive solution is worked out, I believe that we need this particular tax to hold on to what we have now.”[/i]

    Unfortunately, the lack of pain causes too many people to ignore their maladies. They can say “our parks and schools are doing well enough, so why worry so much about government spending?” It is not that I think they are stupid and will actually think the problems have gone away; but they will lose their sense of urgency.

    I am reading the candidates answers to the League of Women Voters questions and that is the difference. Two candidates seem to get it. The others say things like “it took us a long time to get here, and so we should not expect quick solutions”. This is wrong. It is not that the problems have taken this long to materialize; it is that the problems that materialized years ago have been ignored for political reasons. We should be in crisis mode to fix the problems. There should be a TREMENDOUS sense of urgency. Every day that goes by the lives of children are damaged only because we continue to ignore that we cannot afford to keep up the public sector gravy train.

    If you think about it, it is this same “we must hold on to what we have” argument has been used by every individual, group, program, project, etc. This is the source of our ongoing problems. The truth is that we are unable to hold on with what we have, because we gave away the store. Well maintained streets and parks, and school programs are becoming the luxuries because we decided to overspend on our public sector workforce. If this had happened in a private-sector company, management would have had to solve the problem long ago or the company would have ceased to exist because of so much mismanagement (unless it was bailed out by the government).

    The fact is that the business of our state and city (and probably US) government is all screwed up, broken, unsustainable. The model has not worked for decades, yet only now are we talking about nibbling at some of the symptoms. Most of our council candidates seem either connected to the gravy train, or running frightened of how union resources would be used to defeat them if they spoke the truth.

    If I had a better sense that the we all owned this sense of urgency, I would be an eager supporter of Measure D. At this point I am still on the broken fence.

  12. Frankly

    [i]”What do you think is the appropriate ratio to GDP and why?”[/i]

    My point was that our spending per GDP has steadily increased. Government is taking a larger and larger bite out of the economy. The current report is that California is the least business-friendly state in the nation. So the government takes more and more from the producers, and discourages more and more production. Wdf1, what is your vision of the future given these undisputable trends?

  13. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]If I had a better sense that the we all owned this sense of urgency, I would be an eager supporter of Measure D. At this point I am still on the broken fence.[/quote]

    I perfectly understand your point, and am sympathetic to it. But ask yourself this: what will happen if Measure D does not pass? Do you think that will cause the city to wise up and “get it right”? My experience has been that basics will be cut, so the frills can be kept…

  14. CCRussell

    You never know what the City Council will actually do, but Staff did lay out some scenarios as to what might be done at the Council meeting last week. If the full amount is taken from Parks (which is one scenario) then we are potentially looking at reductions in maintenance, mowing less often (which can create a lot of issues), reduced graffiti abatement, reduced Integrated Pest management compliance, and so forth

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