The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department faces $125 million in deferred maintenance each year, ranging from playground maintenance and aquatics needs to mowing and servicing trash and recycling receptacles. What would be your strategy for addressing this need?

Rich DePalma

City Council, District 8

I served on the Aquatics Master Plan Task Force and we developed a
range of ideas to explore from public private partnerships, increasing fees,
etc. Although park funding has grown to around $108 a person up from
around $87 a person in 2013, deferred maintenance over decades along
with explosive growth has created challenges for the park system.
I support diverse funding options to address $125 million in annual deferred
maintenance including the Parkland Dedication and Hotel Occupancy Tax
I also recently voted in favor of recommendations relating to the recycling
made by the Parks Board appointed Task Force and how that work moves
us closer to Austin’s Zero Waste 2040 goals.
Here are some mid-term strategies:
Playground maintenance? – Develop a maintenance plan that includes
senior volunteers who can be certified as playground safety specialists
Aquatics -? Increase fees, P3 with Dell Children’s hospital and AISD for a
natatorium that includes therapy pools to offset maintenance and
operations funding. Partner with AISD and YMCA for a facility at the Burger
Center. Partner with YMCA for a small natatorium at Mabel Davis.
Consolidate two pools in East Austin if it can be determined that service to
the neighborhoods could be improved. Increase fees by a dollar and
implement mobile pay. Determine energy savings if upgrading pool filter
motors and lights. Create a volunteer program that allows volunteers to
maintain and even operate pools. This would allow our youth to serve as
lifeguards without mixing other duties unless needed.
Mowing? – Assess if there are economies of scale with consolidating
mowing contracts currently held across departments (Parks, Public Works,
HACA, etc…) or whether the City of Austin should bring mowing in-house
for all public facilities (if it can be done cheaper).
Trash and Recycling Receptacles ?- On the Parks Board I voted in favor of
the rollout and funding recommendations made by the Parkland Recycling
Task Force during the Parks Board meeting in August 2018.
Long term idea:
Move to a parks district funding model whether it is a macro (one district) or
micro (multiple regional districts). The model would be similar to the
Goodnight Park District in SE Austin.
Another model to consider is the integrated model of the Minneapolis Parks
and Recreation Board (MPRB). The IMPRB is a component unit of the City
of Minneapolis and has an integrated budget process that includes the
MPRB, Board of Estimate and Taxation and City of Minneapolis.

Here is coverage of our aquatic system:
More information on park funding: