The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (Park Board) will host the first in a series of budget meetings on Wednesday, October 26th. There will be a total of three public hearings about the budget – you can find information on how to get involved with the process at the bottom of this article.

Before the meeting kicks off, Park Board President Meg Forney has a message she wants to get out: the Park Board is being handcuffed by a lack of funding from the state. “We are woefully, woefully underfunded by the state. The Met Council, by statute, is responsible for giving us 40% of our annual cost. We have been averaging 9%. It’s not their fault, it’s the state’s. But it’s a whole political football. The legislature didn’t complete their work. We aren’t getting local government aid. We have been short-changed over, and over, and over again.”

According to Forney, the problem got especially bad during the Great Recession and the period of austerity in government budgets that followed. “During the recession, so many things got bare-boned, and things did not get built back up. Our historic structures – we don’t have a budget for them. Other districts budget for 30 years, for things like roof repairs. Is the state who should be funding the Lake Harriet Bandstand? Yep.”

As that funding has shrunk, staff count has continued to grow. Here are two charts that show the reality of the situation – as Local Government Aid that the board receives from the state has shrunk to its lowest level in more than a decade, staff headcount has increased by more than 30% during the same time frame.

The Park Board's Local Government Aid from the state since 2014
The Park Board's staff headcount over the past 20 years

Before going too much further, a quick note on the Park Board budget process. The Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) first sets the taxation levy to help fund the Park Board. The BET includes two members that are directly elected to the board (Samantha Pree-Stinson and Steve Brandt were elected last November), Mayor Jacob Frey, two representatives from the City Council (Andrea Jenkins and Emily Koski), and a representative from the Park Board (Billy Menz). 

The Park Board and staff, led by Parks Superintendent Al Bangoura, work to propose a draft budget levy (based on the amount he thinks they’ll need) for the BET to approve. Then, the BET approves the levy, which controls the amount of funding that the Park Board will receive, at which point the Park Board votes on an actual budget after getting community feedback on their proposals.

That brings us to today. The levy has been approved, and the board will now work on completing the budget itself. They’ll kick off a series of three public meetings today and plan to finish the budget before the end of the year. Originally, they proposed a 6.16% levy increase, but only got a 5.4% increase approved after negotiations with the BET.

The relationship between the parks system and the Mayor will be an interesting dynamic to watch. One of Forney’s primary goals this year is building a better relationship between the Park Board and the Mayor, which she felt deteriorated last term in a harmful way.

She also mentioned that the Mayor wanted to keep the levy as low as possible while ensuring that the Board’s police staff was fully funded. The proposed budget will add two additional full-time officers to their ranks. “The Mayor’s priority is on the policing front. We have around 33 Park Police officers, this will convert two more officers to full-time. After that was funded, our levy request was lowered to meet the Mayor’s needs elsewhere.” These officers, by the way, are not included in the count of Minneapolis Police Department staffing levels, as they are their own separate department despite operating entirely within the city’s boundaries.

Bangoura also specifically pointed out the Mayor’s role when discussing the adjustment to the levy increase: “Through collaboration and negotiation, the Mayor recommended, and the BET passed, the 2023 maximum tax levy increase for the MPRB at $78,456,285, a 5.40 percent increase from 2022 that includes the youth investment, LGA replacement, and system equity investment… The Mayor and BET did not support the care for park assets request.”

Beyond the discussion around rebuilding the relationship between the board and the Mayor, Forney also pointed criticism at the previous board’s active management of the budget, which she contrasted with the current board’s focus on following the lead of their staff. “We did have our former board that micro-managed the heck out of the budget.” In contrast, Forney said that the current board has been focused on supporting staff direction as much as possible.

So, what’s in the proposed budget? At a high level, the budget is heavily focused on supporting the “Strategic Directions” passed by the Board in May 2022. Those include: Acting on climate, cultivating each community’s place and honoring cultural traditions, implementing quality youth and intergenerational programs, caring for park assets, and stewarding natural resources.

Here are a few additional highlights (you can view the full draft proposal here):


  • Two new full-time Child Care Specialist positions to implement a pilot program designed to stabilize Rec Plus staffing
  • Two new full-time park police officers
  • 1,560 additional part-time park patrol agent hours to support the activation of the Downtown Service Area and regional park system


  • Increased ice rental and golf fees
  • A new “busker/street performer fee”(which the previous board lowered from $50 to $5)
  • Increased picnic rental fees 
  • Increased revenue due to additional canoe/kayak rack storage and sailboat buoys and the use of the Regional Park Amenity Fund to procure the canoe/kayak rack storage units and sailboat buoys

Natural resource management

  • 23,755 new city trees planted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board 
  • 48,865 Carbon+ Credits that will be available for sale during the 25- year duration of the project
  • Funding for an additional year of the Cedar Lake and Lake Nokomis blue-green algae reduction diagnostic study and plan


  • Additional funding to complete six pre-2023 park projects including Audubon, Bryn Mawr, Jordan, Painter, Sibley, and Victory
  • Land acquisition near Hiawatha/Lake in the Longfellow neighborhood


  • $300,00 to fix the roof and sidewall at the Lake Harriet Bandshell (the total project will cost $2.6 million, $2.3 million of which will come from realigning Regional Park funds) [Forney noted that this funding is needed sooner than anticipated because of the way it was repaired last time (more details here). ““The way the bandshell was painted sped up the deterioration. Structural issues were also caused by the construction,” said Forney]


There are three key board meetings where the group will discuss the budget:

  • October 26 Board Meeting 
  • November 2 Board Meeting 
  • November 30 Board Meeting  

All meetings take place at the Mary Merrill Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Headquarters located at 2117 West River Road N, Minneapolis, MN 55411

You may submit your comment in writing to be included in the record and shared with Commissioners. Please send your comment to by noon on the day of the board meeting.

All individuals wishing to speak in-person can call 612-230-6400 before 3pm the day of the meeting to be placed on the speaker sign-up sheet or can sign-up in-person at the Board meeting prior to the start of open time.

Meg Forney said that she personally reads all public comments that are written. She also reads her email, and encourages you to email your commissioners with your thoughts. You can find their emails here.