BREC Commission Approves Budget for Capital Improvement Program
Funding up for Approval by voters on April 5 Ballot
After a lengthy process which included the use of scientific surveys, focus groups, community meetings and an online forum, The Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC) tonight approved a budget for the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
The CIP is funded by a two mill property tax levied across East Baton Rouge Parish. This tax was originally passed in 1964 and must be renewed every 10 years. The two mills will generate approximately $7.3 million each year for construction and improvements in the park system and are up for renewal on Saturday, April 5.
In the previous 10 years, BREC has had a much higher funding level for construction due to the addition of a 20-year, 1.73 mill tax passed for capital improvements in 2004. The 2004 Imagine Your Parks tax allowed BREC to borrow $58 million to restore and renew much of the park system. Borrowing the funding ensured that swift progress was made on projects deemed necessary by citizens of the parish during the 2004 strategic planning process, and kept the cost of construction down.
Much of the work centered on the creation of 12 Community or Signature Parks located across the parish including Baker, Central and Zachary. With the funding BREC also built Liberty Lagoon Water Park, five dog parks, Central Sports Park, Frenchtown Conservation Area, improved playgrounds, splash pads, skate parks, fishing ponds, a growing trails system and a mobile playground unit. The 2004 funding also went toward renovations of neighborhood parks and special use facilities such as the Baton Rouge Zoo, Baton Rouge Gallery, Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, Botanic Gardens, Cohn Arboretum, Independence Park Theatre, Farr Park Equestrian Center, golf courses, Highland Road Observatory and Magnolia Mound Plantation.
Most of the funding from the 2004 Imagine Your Parks tax was spent in the first 10 years with the remaining 10 years being used primarily to pay off the note for the borrowed funds. BREC will now return to a much lower level of Capital Improvement funding in 2015-2024 unless additional dollars are secured through other sources.
“BREC has made considerable progress in transforming what was an aging park system comprised of mostly small, neighborhood parks,” said BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight. “We know that there is still a lot of work to be done and with the 2004 Imagine Your Parks funding mostly spent, the CIP funding from the April 5 renewal is critical for us to continue moving the park system forward and not lose the ground we have gained since 2004.”
The following chart outlines the major categories of project funding for this 10-year Capital Improvement Program:
|Category||Percent of Overall Funding
|Special Use Facilities||26.4%||$19,290,000|
|System Wide Needs||20.1%||$14,715,000|
While the amount of funding for projects is allocated in this plan, the funds are not tied to specific work. As with the 2004 Imagine Your Parks Program, BREC will work with the public to help decide how funds will be spent on a particular park or project. In fact, BREC has scheduled a May 1 meeting at Independence Community Park Theatre at 6 p.m. to give residents from across the parish the chance to see the ideas and trends which have emerged from the public community input process and to explore ideas and find priorities before eventually coming to a final plan which will guide the use of the CIP funding for the next decade.
“The number one request we have heard at every community meeting, in every survey and from our online forum, MindMixer, has been for BREC to develop more trails across the Parish,” said McKnight. “This budget includes $5 million for further development of trails and connectivity on the ground and in area waterways. We will work to enhance that funding through the pursuit of grants and community partnership in order to create connectivity across East Baton Rouge Parish.”
Through the 2004 Imagine Your Parks plan, BREC has created more than 33 miles of trails throughout the parish and the new plan will concentrate on further development of running and biking trails as well as connectivity and access for kayaks and canoes in area waterways.
The budget also includes funding for technology improvements, conservation projects, development of a new community park in the south part of the parish, upgrades to include air conditioning at priority recreation centers, athletic facility enhancements and the pursuit of new recreational trends.
For a look at the full budget approved by the BREC Commission, go to brec.org/CIPbudget.