May 21, 1997
Main Findings of IBO Analysis of Parks Spending Trends
- Public spending on parks has dropped significantly over the last
ten years. When considered in inflation-adjusted terms (1996 dollars),
actual spending on operations at the Department of Parks and Recreation
(DPR) was reduced from $218.5 million in 1987 to $150.5 million
in 1996, a 31 percent reduction.
- Private spending has been increasing steadily for the past decade,
partly offsetting public spending reductions. In inflation-adjusted
1996 dollars, total private operating support to City parks has
grown from $5.0 million in 1987 to $17.7 million in 1996.
- Private support has, however, not made up for the reduction in
private support and has been concentrated in only a handful of
parks across the City. The Central Park Conservancy alone, for
example, accounted for 57 percent of private funding for operations
in the 1987-96 period.
- Total spending on parks operations - public and private spending
combined - has been reduced from $223.5 million in 1987 to $168.2
million in 1996 (in inflation-adjusted 1996 dollars). Most of
this reduction can be attributed to a more than 25 percent drop
in public funding from 1991 to 1992.
- The reduction in total parks operating spending has been greater
in some areas than others. IBO's analysis shows that, in the last
ten years, total public and private spending in inflation-adjusted
1996 dollars has fallen by 46 percent in the Bronx and 44 percent
in Queens, while it has fallen only 21 percent in Manhattan. In
Brooklyn, the reduction has been 32 percent, and in Staten Island
it has been 34 percent. This is due to both a greater percentage
of the reduction in City spending being applied to the Bronx and
Queens as well as a larger share of private funding going to Manhattan.
- With regard to spending by activity, City spending on recreational
services has been reduced more than other areas. In inflation-adjusted
terms, recreation has been reduced 65 percent from $20 million
in 1987 to $7 million in 1996. Over the same ten-year period,
City spending for the general maintenance and upkeep of parks
and for centrally managed programs have been reduced 24 percent
and 43 percent, respectively. Adding in private support for recreational
services, which reached $5 million in 1996 and was essentially
zero in 1987, the reduction in spending is still 39 percent.
- The City's workfare program (now called Work Experience Program
or WEP) has grown substantially over the last couple years and
is now a major resource to DPR. IBO estimates that the more than
5,500 WEP workers deployed by DPR in 1996, providing an average
of 18 hours of labor per worker each week, is equivalent to over
2,900 full-time employees by standard productivity measures. However,
for the most part, WEP workers only clean parks, and may not perform
duties previously performed by paid employees. For example, they
cannot perform skilled labor tasks, such as repairing park property,
operating machinery, or supervising recreational activities.
- Although not as much detail is available on the capital budget,
capital spending has not compensated for the reduction in spending
on operations. Until the last two fiscal years, 1995 and 1996,
capital spending had been trending downward, especially in inflation-adjusted
Current 1997 Budget and Proposed 1998 Budget
- The operating budget was reduced in 1997 and is proposed to remain
at about the same level in 1998. Correspondingly, full-time headcount
was reduced in 1987 and is proposed to be reduced further in 1998.
The number of WEP workers is planned to reach almost 3,200 FTE's
of labor in 1997 and hold steady at this level for 1998. Capital
spending is planned to be higher in 1997 and 1998.