Parks Levy Oversight Committee Annual Report: Fiscal Year 2022-23

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PLOC report cover with background of people at PP&R event.
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City Council unanimously voted to accept the Parks Levy Oversight Committee Annual Report: Fiscal Year 2022-23 on December 13, 2023. 


The Parks Levy Oversight Committee (PLOC) is excited about the progress made towards the Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy) voter commitments. As one-third of the bureau’s operating budget, this critical funding source is supporting parks and recreation services that have benefited Portlanders this year. We are pleased to present our review of the Year 2 Parks Levy Annual Report and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) Parks Levy actions in fiscal year (FY) 2022-23.

In November 2020, Portland voters passed the Parks Levy to maintain parks, improve access and safety, provide equitable recreation programs, and proactively care for natural areas and Portland’s urban forest. The ballot language stated that a community oversight committee would be appointed to review Parks Levy expenditures and to report annually to City Council.

The PLOC is a committee of five community members, selected from an open public applicant pool and appointed by the PP&R director. We convene quarterly to review progress on the Parks Levy, receive updates from PP&R staff, and participate in topical presentations and discussions.

As established in our charter, we produce our own annual report reviewing adherence to Parks Levy language, fiscal accountability, and transparency. We are pleased to submit the Year 2 Parks Levy Oversight Committee Annual Report.

Sincerely,
Parks Levy Oversight Committee


Current Members

The current PLOC members, pictured here, began or renewed their service in July 2023. New members came on board following Year 2 and reviewed the Parks Levy Annual Report covering FY 2022-23 in October 2023.

Members serving during FY 2022-23 included Alescia Blakely and Silas Sanderson. Previous members Judy BlueHorse Skelton, Maria Velez, Paul Agrimis sunset their service in July 2023.

Portrait photo of Alescia Blakely

Alescia Blakely is a Resident & Community Services Program Manager at Home Forward. She advocates for marginalized communities through building stronger connections to community health, workforce development, domestic violence and education systems. Alescia has over 29 years of social work experience working in both private and public sectors and is passionate about the benefits of parks and community centers.

Portrait photo of Mary Ruble

Mary B. Ruble is a long time advocate for parks, currently a Portland Parks Foundation board member and previously on the Portland Parks Board. She has contributed her expertise to local organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Self Enhancement, Inc., and more. Mary retired from U.S. Bank in 2018 as a Senior VP specializing in finance marketing and communications.

Portrait photo of Silas Sanderson

Silas Sanderson is a Professional Civil Engineer with Schnabel Engineering, where he works on environmental restoration, risk assessments of flood reduction structures, and seismic assessments. He loves the outdoors and is passionate about empowering Portland’s communities to realize their vision for their parks.

Portrait photo of Tim Williams

Tim Williams was raised in Eugene and moved to Portland in 2007 to work in health care. For the past 10 years, he has been a small business owner, managing a neighborhood restaurant and bar. Tim and his wife live in Southeast Portland and all three of their children have participated in the PP&R preschool program. They love exploring Portland’s parks and splash pads.

Portrait photo of Zay Conant

Zay Conant is a junior at McDaniel High School and was most recently a committee co-chair on the Multnomah Youth Commission. In their free time Zay draws, reads, hangs out with friends, studies, and helps their parents around the house. Zay loves their community and is proud to work on bringing people together with healthier, more environmentally conscious tactics.


Adherence to Ballot Language

Definition: Actions are based on and build upon the promises contained in the language of the voters’ pamphlet.

In tracking all elements of the Parks Levy—including key actions, financials, and performance measures—PP&R used the 15 commitments from the voters’ pamphlet Parks Levy ballot language to track progress on promises made to voters. In the Year 2 Parks Levy Annual Report, covering FY 2022-23, each of the 15 voter commitments had actions and programs that helped meet the commitments, service area financials that aligned with each commitment, and performance measures that spoke to progress made for each commitment in the fiscal year.

The PLOC finds that PP&R shows adherence to the ballot language, with all actions and allocation of Parks Levy funds in FY 2022-23 being based on and building upon the promises made in the voters’ pamphlet. The PLOC encourages PP&R to continue to expand and refine performance measures related to the commitments, including stronger comparisons to past performance, to establish and provide quantification on what progress in each commitment looks like for the bureau. This refinement, in addition to continuing to include participant stories, can help PP&R best show success related to the Parks Levy commitments.

PP&R staff loading buckets of soil into a car.

In addition to ensuring each specific voter commitment is met, it is important that PP&R honor the spirit of the Parks Levy and continue strengthening its community partnerships. The PLOC commends PP&R on their use of the Community Partnership Program, particularly in using the Portland Parks Foundation’s Small Grants Program to increase impact and reach, to help additional community-based organizations foster equitable access to our parks and community centers.

The PLOC also encourages PP&R to continue investing in Portland’s tree canopy and building PP&R’s Urban Forestry team’s capacity to enhance tree planting and care. Given the impacts of climate change, this investment is more critical than ever.

Overall, all Parks Levy-related actions taken in FY 2022-23 adhere to the ballot language, and PP&R has been clear and intentional about communicating that adherence.

Recommendation: Continue using the 15 commitments for tracking progress and refine performance measures to speak to success, beyond adherence, on the ballot language.


Fiscal Accountability

Definition: Maintain fiscal accountability as a core driver. Parks Levy dollars are tracked and auditable. Ensure integrity and accuracy of financial statements.

PP&R is fiscally accountable in tracking Parks Levy dollars in a transparent, auditable, and effective way. Throughout the year, PP&R maintained fiscal accountability by presenting a variety of finance items to the PLOC:

  • Quarterly updates of estimated Parks Levy spending in FY 2022-23 and a year-end summary of financial actuals
  • Overview of the FY 2023-24 Requested Budget and new budget proposals supported by the Parks Levy
  • High-level summary of Parks Levy resources committed to date with a five-year forecast

PP&R published all Parks Levy expenses, categorized by service area (Functional Area) and work group (Fund Center), as part of the Year 2 Parks Levy Annual Report. The PLOC appreciates that PP&R can track Parks Levy expenditures at a variety of levels, from alignment with Parks Levy ballot commitments to granular line-item expenses. This ensures that Parks Levy dollars are tracked, auditable, and spent responsibly. The PLOC looks forward to receiving a Parks Levy independent audit following Year 3, in fall 2024.

The PLOC recognizes and supports that PP&R’s Leveraged Funding Model maximizes Parks Levy funding and ensures that the General Fund is utilized first. This process has resulted in underspending of Parks Levy funds. The PLOC appreciates PP&R’s continued communication about the nature of underspending and expects to see increased delivery and spending in the coming years.

Parks Levy funding is being used towards eligible operational expenses. The PLOC acknowledges that the Parks Levy is allowing PP&R to avoid service cuts and make progress on operating levels. However, it does not solve all the bureau’s long-term ongoing financial needs, including its capital maintenance needs for major repairs and replacements. If facilities become degraded due to lack of additional capital maintenance funding, PP&R's ability to deliver programs supported by the Parks Levy will diminish. The PLOC urges City Council to prioritize funding to address the nearly $600 million maintenance backlog to support continued delivery of critical park services.

In FY 2022-23, PP&R has proactively communicated Parks Levy decision points, financial statements, and budget implications with the PLOC. Further, by sharing Parks Levy financial information with the public on the PP&R website in PLOC meeting notes and the Year 2 Parks Levy Annual Report, PP&R remains fiscally accountable to Portlanders.

Recommendation: Continue tracking the use of the Leveraged Funding Model at multiple levels (commitment, service area and workgroup, and line-item) and proactively share financial status.


Transparency

Definition: Act in a way that clearly promotes equity, participation, accountability, and engenders trust.

In sharing Parks Levy information with the PLOC, PP&R is also sharing information with the public through meeting notes, website content, and opportunities for public attendance at PLOC meetings. The PLOC is appreciative that additional time for questions and comments has been allocated during PLOC meetings in response to PLOC members’ interests. To allow the PLOC to learn more about program decisions and the impact of Parks Levy funding, PP&R continued to share topic-specific presentations in FY 2022-23. These topics included the Access Pass discount and related data, Workforce Development updates, Urban Forestry goals and status, the Community Partnership Program, and more.

Group of kids cheering

The PLOC is particularly impressed with the transparency and information-sharing around underspending of the Parks Levy in Years 1 and 2. PP&R has proactively included information in budget presentations and the annual reports to explain and capture the ramp-up elements of bringing on a large funding source like the Parks Levy. The PLOC understands that ramp-up activities like approving new positions, as well as creating workspace and purchasing equipment for those positions, mean that related Parks Levy expenses will occur once positions are on board. As such, the PLOC expects increased outcomes and impact in the upcoming years of the Parks Levy.

The PLOC encourages PP&R to enhance transparency by adding additional context to performance measures, as well as speaking to Parks Levy impact by comparing, by program, current service levels with the Parks Levy to levels without Parks Levy funding. In doing so, the PLOC sees an opportunity for PP&R to emphasize the impact of the Parks Levy. Additionally, more frequent, short-form communications can help PP&R share Parks Levy information in a more accessible and transparent way.

As noted in previous sections of this report, PP&R has been intentionally clear and transparent in sharing where and how Parks Levy funds are used, particularly in supporting the 15 voter commitments.

Recommendation: Enhance transparency by sharing additional context for performance measures and speaking to service level impacts with and without the Parks Levy. 


Portland Parks & Recreation’s developing civil rights page offers information related to making programming more accessible and inclusive.

The City of Portland ensures meaningful access to City programs, services, and activities to comply with Civil Rights Title VI and ADA Title II laws, and reasonably provides translation, interpretation, modifications, accommodations, alternative formats, auxiliary aids, and services. Request these services or call 503-823-2525. For for Relay Service or TTY contact 711.

503-823-2525

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