Parks Local Option Levy

Information
The late former Parks Commissioner Nick Fish celebrates with a team after the Portland World Soccer tournament championship, in a recent summer. Photo is courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation, Portland, OR.
Portland voters have approved the Parks Local Option Levy. This means that Portland Parks & Recreation will now be able to maintain neighborhood parks appropriately, improve access and safety, provide equitable recreation programs, and proactively care for its natural areas and urban forest.
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Parks Levy Latest

Summer Free For All Returns in 2022 with support from the Parks Levy. The Parks Levy is making Summer Free For All possible with critical community investment. As promised to Portland voters, the Parks Levy will, in part, be used to deliver recreational programs, including family-friendly movies and concerts, fitness and art classes, teen- and senior-focused programs, life-saving swim lessons, and Free Lunch + Play. This year’s program includes 42 events, including Festivals, Movies in the Park, Concerts in the Park, and other special events across the city.

Aquatics Staff Shortage for Summer 2022. While Parks Levy funding is available to support the delivery of swim lessons and keeping pools open, PP&R continues to experience staffing challenges like nearly all parks and recreation agencies across the country and PP&R Aquatics is affected by ongoing recruitment and hiring struggles. As a result, swim lessons will only be available at outdoor pools this summer. Portland Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio stressed that PP&R can and will open more lessons, and lessons at Portland’s indoor pools, if it is able to hire and train more aquatics staff. While not a replacement, PP&R will be expanding its splash pad hours across the city to provide opportunities to cool off this summer. Find out more information on PP&R’s Aquatics information page.  

Employment and Internship Opportunities. PP&R offers fun, fulfilling jobs in a welcoming and inclusive work environment; anyone age 16 and up is encouraged to apply here. Portland Parks & Recreation has seasonal jobs, part-time work, and full-time careers. Training is free, including for lifeguards and swim instructors, and many part-time staff have gone on to established, long-term careers with the City. 


Parks Levy Overview

Overwhelmingly approved by Portland voters in November 2020, the Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy) is a property tax of $0.80 per $1,000 of Assessed Value that will raise approximately $48 million per year for five years, starting in fall of 2021. The funding will provide crucial operating funding for the PP&R parks system and programs that provide recreation services and help conserve parks, nature, and clean water.

Three Parks Levy priority area icons. Recreation for all is expanding and maintaining equitable recreation services. Protect and Grow Nature is maintaining parks, improving the health of natural areas, and increasing tree planting and care. Community Partnerships is building stronger community partnerships and increasing engagement with underserved communities.

As promised in the November 2020 Voter Pamphlet, Parks Levy funds will:

  • Enhance and preserve parks, rivers, wetlands, trees, and other important natural features in urban areas for the benefit of all Portlanders and wildlife;
  • Provide park and recreation services to diverse populations including communities of color, seniors, teens, households experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, and people living with disabilities;
  • Increase opportunities for communities of color and children experiencing poverty to connect with nature;
  • Prevent cuts to recreation programs, closures of community centers and pools; and
  • Enhance park maintenance to keep parks clean and safe, including litter and hazardous waste removal, restroom cleaning, and playground safety.

The services and programs to be funded by this measure are planned to include, but are not limited to:

  • Protect water quality and wildlife habitat, control erosion, remove invasive species in 8,000 acres of natural area.
  • Deliver recreational programs, including, but not limited to, environmental education and access to nature for youth, summer camps, family-friendly movies and concerts, fitness and arts classes, teen- and senior-focused programs, life-saving swim lessons, and a summer playground program serving free lunches to children experiencing hunger.
  • Remove financial barriers for low-income households by ending current dependence on recreation fee revenues, allowing an equity-focused delivery of community events and programs and reducing the likelihood of further cuts to recreation offerings.
  • Clean litter and hazardous waste in parks and natural areas, maintain grounds and landscaping, provide safety checks on play equipment, improve preventative and traditional maintenance.
  • Keep public restrooms open and cleaner.
  • Plant new trees in communities where today canopy coverage is lower, to improve air and water quality, diminish the impacts of climate change, and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Protect Portland’s 1.2 million park trees by performing proactive maintenance, safety checks, hazard removal, and replacement of damaged trees in parks and natural areas.
  • Modernize data systems to improve internal efficiency.
  • Prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty, including equity-centered engagement and outreach, community partnership grants, and increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups.

Parks Levy Oversight Committee

The Parks Levy Oversight Committee (PLOC) is composed of five members, selected from an open public applicant pool, appointed by the PP&R Director. The PLOC reviews program implementation, advises on transparency and communication strategies, and will counsel on an independent audit process. They report annually to City Council regarding program progress. Members meet quarterly and review information produced by PP&R staff to verify compliance with the purposes set forth in the Parks Levy as approved by the voters.

Additional information, meeting notes, annual reports, and more can be found on the Parks Levy Oversight Committee page.


Parks Levy Funding and the PP&R Budget

Budgeting of Parks Levy funds goes through the same process that the entire PP&R budget goes through. The budget is shaped by staff input and the Parks Budget Advisory Council. The requested budget is submitted to the City Budget Office, reviewed by the Mayor, and adopted by City Council.

Click here to learn more about the Parks Levy in the PP&R budget.


History of Parks Levy

Spring 2019
The path to the Parks Levy started in spring of 2019 with PP&R budget cuts and a commitment to think about solutions to address the Bureau’s structural funding gap. Portland City Council requested a work session to hear about different funding solutions.

November 26, 2019
At the Council Work Session in November 2019, PP&R highlighted significant funding gaps for both operating and capital maintenance and presented six funding options. Of the options presented, Council encouraged Parks to focus future work on General Obligation Bonds, a temporary Local Option Levy, a food/beverage tax, and a special district – and to add income tax to the list.

Creating a sustainable future for Portland Parks & Recreation

March 2020
Following the work session, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed financial circumstances as PP&R heavily depended on fees from in-person programming. The pandemic changed the magnitude and immediacy of the operating funding gap. 

July 22, 2020
PP&R pivoted to analyze its new financial position and conducted a poll to assess viability for two funding options: bond and local option levy. Poll respondents indicated that the work that a levy would do (bringing programming back, protecting and growing nature) was a higher priority than a bond to address deferred maintenance. In July 2020, City Council approved a resolution to refer a Parks Local Option Levy for voters to consider on the November 3, 2020 ballot.

November 3, 2020
The Parks Levy was passed in the November 2020 election. Thank you, Portland voters!

Summer 2021
PP&R worked with City Council to get early access to Parks Levy resources, ahead of collection of Parks Levy resources in November 2021, allowing PP&R to deliver a COVID-19 responsive summer program in 2021. Programming included over 15,000 swim lessons, summer camps for over 7,500 kids, over 100,000 nutritious meals served at 30+ park sites, Fitness in the Park classes for over 2,000 people, pop-up concerts, and many other services throughout the city. Without the Parks Levy, community centers, camps, and pools would have been shuttered indefinitely. See what the Parks Levy meant to Portland in Summer 2021: