Advocates for Philadelphia parks told City Council Tuesday that they are tired of waiting for an additional $8 million a year they say Mayor Nutter promised when he first took office.
Chanting "Restore $8 million," about 200 of them sat in Council chambers as Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis testified about his department's budget.
In an interview after the Council hearing, Lauren Bornfriend, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, said that in 2008, parks advocates had supported a parking tax backed by Nutter that was supposed to be dedicated to funding parks and recreation centers.
The parking tax passed, but then the economy crashed, and those revenues went to causes other than parks. Bornfriend says parks have suffered long enough. Many facilities have unusable bathrooms, leaky roofs and other problems, she said.
"It's been four years," Bornfriend said. "Enough is enough." The decision to divert the parking-tax revenue followed decades of underfunding, she added, creating huge needs in the system.
City Budget Director Rebecca Rhnyhart said city finances are still recovering from the recession. The city already has raised property and sales taxes to compensate for declining revenues. If parks money were increased beyond the $47.8 million budgeted for fiscal year 2013, other departments would lose, Rhynhart said.
"Something else would need to be cut," she said. Several Council members expressed support for increasing parks funding, but they did not say where they could find the money.
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