Advocates want more money for Philly parks

    Philadelphia spends less on its parks and recreation department per capita than many other cities, according to the Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

    Lauren Bornfriend, the Parks Alliance’s executive director, wants the city to devote $56 million to the department next fiscal year. Mayor Michael Nutter is proposing about $51.2 million.

    “If you look at a city like Minneapolis, and you look at how much their parks and recreation department spends per resident, they spend $200 a year. And we spend $64,” Bornfriend said. “Cincinnati, Ohio, spends $156. Cleveland, Ohio, spends $102.”

    The data come from the alliance’s 2012 report “Parks by the Numbers.”

    Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said Nutter’s proposed budget boosts parks funding compared with fiscal year 2012.

    Last year, Bornfriend’s group convinced City Council and Nutter to set aside an additional $2.6 million for the department. As a result, the city expects to spend nearly $51.3 million by the end of this fiscal year, compared with about $45.4 million in 2012.

    The Parks Alliance likely will face an uphill battle; Philadelphia is the in the midst of a property-tax overhaul and the school district is also asking for more money.

    Councilman Bill Green said he wants adequate funding for the parks system. But he’s currently focused on the property-tax rate.

    “I’m combing through the budget looking for tens of millions of dollars of cuts so that we can keep the millage rate as low as possible,” he said. “So I’m not prepared to vote for any increased expenditure. In fact, I’m trying to decrease the city’s expenditure.”

    Councilman Mark Squilla voted for additional parks funding in fiscal year 2013. He said the department could use more money, but didn’t commit to another increase.

    “I am a big parks and rec fan,” he said. “But we have to see how the budget plays out.”

    Park advocates are planning to pack Council’s chambers next week during a hearing on the budget for parks and recreation.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.