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The conspiracy to destroy our Park and Recreation Department is getting deeper with the resignation of the department head, Ted Medina. Why should a service with better than 90 percent customer satisfaction be chopped up without public input? The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board is in favor of a large monolithic bureaucracy in General Services. This stinks of a rotten calculation that the larger bureaucracy would be so ineffective that the Park and Recreation services, already cut to the barebones, would be outsourced or completely dumped.

The reality is that elimination of the Park and Recreation department will lead to higher taxes on communities, and lower fees for developers.

How does this lead to higher taxes on communities?

As the general fund support for parks dries up, communities will be forced to assess themselves to raise revenue. Currently, communities have an option to form Maintenance Assessment Districts (MADs) which levy property-based taxes to pay for levels of services beyond what the city provides. There are 50 MADs in the city assessing San Diego residents and businesses about $24 million annually. If the parks budget is cut, new MADs would have to be formed, and existing ones will be expected to reballot, based on the level of maintenance they can afford.

How does this lower developer fees?

Development impact fees are levied on new developments to help pay for the public infrastructure costs generated by the new growth. A primary component of these fees is to pay for new parks. However, as the city stops maintaining parks, the fees will be adjusted downwards only to the level the MADs can afford. In other words, developers will tell communities to be prepared to raise taxes if they want new parks, or else, stop asking for new parks.

So far, citizens of San Diego have spelled out in the charter that they expect the city of San Diego to provide parks and recreation services (Sections 26.1 and 55), and to the chagrin of the U-T editors, are clearly holding the line.

MURTAZA BAXAMUSA

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