Statement on the canceling Park and Recreation programing
COVID-19 has made a significant impact on the City of Maplewood’s budget due to program and event cancelations and shifts in service delivery. We anticipate a future reduction in property tax collections because of the economic impact on commercial businesses. City Council has directed department heads to deliver a 0% increase in the 2021 tax levy to ease the financial burden on homeowners.
On top of the pandemic’s impacts, several unforeseen budget constraints have arisen, including:
- $250,000 increase in worker’s compensation premiums; and
- $250,000 increase in debt service payments.
When the pandemic first hit, we took several budget measures, including furloughing all part-time Police Department Community Service Officers, offering early retirement incentives, stopping overtime, in except public safety or health emergencies and cutting Maplewood Living from 8 to 4 pages to save on printing and publication. The city has also put off vehicle purchasing. Unfortunately, of all the services Maplewood provides, Nature Center and Parks and Recreation were the most impacted and felt the biggest fiscal losses.
We have tried to be creative about service delivery and put off the most painful decisions until we truly understood long-term budget impacts. Now, with a clearer budget forecast and in consultation with members of council, we have decided to cancel programing in Parks and Recreation and at the Nature Center. This was a difficult decision but was done to prevent deeper cuts to core city services while easing the burden on city taxpayers.
Virtual programs such as Geocaching and the photo scavenger hunt will continue, but leagues and other programing will be canceled and full refunds will be processed.
While the Governor is starting to allow some recreational activities to resume, they would be running at significantly reduced capacity, with higher costs in a time of social distancing and constant sanitization. Maplewood’s nearly 50 other parks, trails and preserves—including the Nature Center pond and trail—will continue to be maintained and open for people to enjoy.
We are forming a task force to explore ways to provide park and recreation programing through various community partners. Once health experts allow large-scale gatherings, we will put a plan in pace to resume the Celebrate Summer and other community gatherings.
Regards, Melinda Coleman
City Manager, City of Maplewood