After four years of spending cuts, the Vancouver park board won’t be tightening its belt any further in 2013.
“For us, it’s good news,” Vision Vancouver park commissioner Aaron Jasper told the Straight in a phone interview. The board votes Thursday (December 13) on finalizing its budget for next year.
Jasper explained that although the overall park budget climbed from $99.6 million in 2009 to $103.8 million in 2012, the increases weren’t enough to cover rising costs. He said that the board had to trim expenses totalling $5 million during those years.
According to Jasper, the cuts included reducing the frequency of grass cutting at 14 percent of “passive areas” in parks across the city starting in 2011, which produced a “meadow look” in these spots. This has saved the board $150,000 per year.
“We want to make sure that the playing fields and the playgrounds and all that stuff is still cut, but it actually worked out pretty good,” the park commissioner said. “So it begs the question: well, does every blade of grass need to be cut? Is it okay to let some of the grass be a little longer on some of the edges?”
Jasper maintained that while grass cutting in these passive areas was reduced, the park board managed to increase grass mowing in neighbourhood parks outside the downtown area from 13 times in 2011 to 15 times in 2012.
“The choice that we made was that all our core programming and recreational services were provided and affordable,” Jasper said.
In an interview on December 3, Non-Partisan Association park commissioner Melissa De Genova said she’s not pleased with the way parks are being maintained. “I just don’t think that we’re maintaining our parks and cutting our grass the way we should be,” De Genova told the Straight by phone.
De Genova also indicated that she wants the park board to restore 900 operating hours at community centres across the city that were cut this year.
In 2013, the park board will spend $106.2 million. This does not include the $14 million initially allocated for capital or infrastructure expenses. In a meeting on December 11, city council approved a $3-million increase to the park board’s capital budget. According to Jasper, this increase will be used to upgrade field houses and park washrooms.