An audit report released by Portland City Auditor Gary Blackmer yesterday says the five-year parks levy achieved improvements in facilities and services.
Auditors found the levy funding was generally spent consistently with the Parks Bureau's original plans.
However, auditors also found that wording of the ballot title included in the voter's pamphlet may have prevented voters from making an informed decision about whether to approve the levy.
Due to revenue shortfalls, the Parks Bureau experienced a $2.2 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2002-03, and to avoid ongoing service reductions, the city asked voters for additional funding for park and recreation services.
Voters passed the levy in the November 2002 election, which was to provide $49 million in additional tax revenue over five years. The Levy proceeds were used to enhance maintenance and recreation services.
In addition, the Parks Bureau spent over $20 million on capital projects, adding about $1 million in annual operating and maintenance costs to support the new facilities.
While the City Attorney's Office believes that use of levy funds for construction was allowable, the ballot title did not specifically mention capital projects as a levy purpose.
The report recommends that City Council ensure that all future ballot measures be prepared in such a way that the ballot title clearly communicates the purposes and intent of each proposed measure - including having wording consistent with the ordinance or resolution that refers the measure to voters.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who was the Parks Commissioner during the course of the audit project, and Zari Santner, Parks & Recreation bureau director, submitted written responses to the audit, and their responses are included in the published report.
The report is available online at: http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=49566&a=228722
For information on this and other reports published by the Audit Services Division, go to: www.portlandonline.com/auditor/auditservices