Metro Parks Tacoma announced significant budget cuts Friday in response to the systemwide closure caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Park district leaders project lower revenues from sales taxes and property taxes. And 44 percent of the overall budget comes from “earned revenue” — fees associated with attendance, programs, classes, facility rentals, and more. The systemwide closure means the district isn’t receiving any earned revenue.
As a result, the park district announced it will lay off approximately 520 part-time and seasonal staff, effective March 31. All managers and non-represented staff will see temporary reductions in pay or hours, with senior leaders taking a larger reduction. Other steps include freezing spending and hiring, tapping emergency funding from district reserves, and asking represented staff to participate in the reductions.
“The budget impact is coming into focus now, and it’s devastating,” said Metro Parks Executive Director Shon Sylvia. “We estimate our losses could reach $13 million, depending on how long this situation continues. We’re all in shock over how quickly it came to this. We strongly urge Congress to target its next round of relief toward local governments.
“I’ve worked at Metro Parks for more than 20 years and I know the staff well,” Sylvia added, “and this is heartbreaking. They helped make this one of the best systems in the nation.”
Metro Parks operates a vast network of destinations and experiences, including Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Meadow Park Golf Course, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, community centers, pools, spraygrounds, parks, hundreds of recreation programs, and more. District leaders are working with staff to manage essential functions, including animal care, building systems, basic parks operations and maintenance, and maintaining support systems.
“We have a team of managers looking ahead to how the recovery may go, and I look forward to being able to provide incredible experiences for our community again,” Sylvia said.
While Metro Parks facilities are closed, parks remain open for visitors to walk, cycle and otherwise enjoy nature while following public health recommendations to avoid exposure to the virus. Per the Governor’s orders, park visitors are asked to use open spaces and trails responsibly: practice social distancing (6 feet from anyone), bring hand sanitizer, and take all belongings and trash home. In other words, “pack it in, pack it out.”
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