Davis residents will have the opportunity to vote on the renewal of a Parks Maintenance Tax when it appears on the June 5 ballot. Voting in favor of Measure D would renew a tax that partially funds the upkeep of city parks and greenbelts.
The tax would require a two-thirds vote to pass. In the event that it doesn’t pass, the city would have to make up a parks maintenance budget deficit of $1.344 million.
Currently, Davis residents pay the tax on a per parcel basis: $49 for each residential parcel or per 1,000 square foot of each nonresidential parcel up to a maximum of 10,000 square feet. This means businesses pay a parks tax proportional to their size while households have the $49 flat fee.
Revenue from the tax typically goes toward the maintenance and operations of pools and parks, graffiti abatement, trees maintenance, lawn mowing and edging.
Without the tax, a lot of these functions will be trimmed considerably, says Alan Pryor, member of the Davis Natural Resources Commission.
“There will be no normal preventative maintenance of trees,” Pryor said. “Graffiti abatement will be done when they can get to it. They’re talking about having to eliminate 15 full-time employees.”
If the tax doesn’t pass, a substantial amount of parks maintenance activity will have to be cut, as the city has no other mechanism to make up the funds.
At the Davis City Council meeting on May 1, City Staff presented a contingency plan that would be implemented if Measure D failed to pass.
There are a couple of different ways the city can approach these cuts.
“The Park Maintenance Tax is a special fund that we are legally obligated to use for parks maintenance,” Stachowitz said. “When you have those funds available to you, it frees up funds from the general fund that can be used in any way.”
Without the revenue from the tax, one choice is to replace it with money from parks maintenance. The other choice is to take a disproportionate amount from parks maintenance and take the rest of the money out of the general fund.
“The city manager’s recommendation is a hybrid method, where some cuts are taken from parks maintenance, but not all,” Stachowitz said. “Part of the reason is that we have more parks than a lot of other communities and this community has expressed an interest in maintaining those services and programs.”
Pryor reiterated that maintaining the tax is in the best interest of the community.
“Davis parks and bike pathways are the jewel of the city and really make Davis unique,” Pryor said. “Lots of college towns are active and vibrant, but there’s no place in the country that has the amount of parks and interconnecting bike pathways that we have.”
Apart from giving Davis a unique look and feel, a well-maintained system of parks and greenbelts helped Davis survive downturns in the housing market, says Pryor.
“Davis didn’t get hit nearly as badly when the recession hit,” Pryor said. “Prices dropped in the valley close to 50 percent, and in Davis prices only dropped 10 to 15 percent.”
Charlie Russell, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, has been involved with parks and recreation issues for almost 30 years and says that he sees the benefits of parks and recreation facilities and programs every day.
“My kids all benefited from these programs,” Russell said. “Anyone who’s lived in Davis for any small amount of time knows how significant these issues are to residents. If we’ve already cut back on services and maintenance, losing this funding will have a significant negative effect on life in town.”
EINAT GILBOA can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.