Support Increased PARD Staffing in our City Budget

Susan Selesky
People + Parks
, Advocacy, Blog Page, City Budget

Austin Parks Foundation and other outdoor organizations are sensitive to the nature of this budget year being tight and have respectfully limited our PARD budget ask to the most pressing, equity-centered and community-supported needs. Like in years past, PARD’s most pressing need for the FY25 budget is adequate staffing to maintain parks, recreational and cultural centers, and pools.

We ask for your help advocating to add these items to PARD’s budget to meet Austin’s previously asserted goals of providing parks and open space close to where people live, work and play (Imagine Austin), creating a park system in which all residents live within a ten-minute walk to a park (Council Resolution 20091119-068), and serving residents of all ages and abilities with accessible, diverse and inclusive parks and recreation programs and amenities (Strategic Direction 2023).

We are advocating for a $2.62 million increase to PARD’s budget to fund the continued level of maintenance of park services and retain the homeless encampment response team.  


Total Cost: $2.24 million  

Cost Breakdown: $1.5M ongoing, $740K one-time; 16 year-round FTEs + supplies 

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for 18,737.4066 acres of deeded land, non-dedicated land and easements. PARD mows, provides routine servicing (such as litter pickup), secures the site and ensures that right-of-way vegetation is maintained. The request for 16 FTEs does not represent a service expansion, but merely keeping the baseline of service consistent with what Austinites expect the level of service in parks to be.

In 2024, PARD developed a formula to determine what number of full-time employees (FTEs)

 the city would need to maintain the same level of service as they offered in 2014. This formula took into consideration estimated man hours for various tasks such as mowing and other vegetation-management tasks, litter, restroom and natural area inspections and servicing, preventative maintenance and work order completion, and the fact that there has been considerable growth of park assets in the last 10 years. Using this formula, PARD determined that the ground maintenance team would have needed the equivalent of an additional 19.6 FTEs by FY23 to achieve this same level of service, but instead only grew by a net 5 FTEs. The demand for the additional 16 FTEs is based on additional maintenance and service requests associated with existing assets improved through capital improvement projects and increased expectations for maintenance, as well as acquired acreage. Even with 16 new FTEs, based on the level of service provided in 2014, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recommended standard for maintenance of parks and recreational facilities for Austin would be closer to 90 FTEs. 

Lack of sufficient PARD staffing will be felt across all of Austin parks. Without hiring more FTEs, it is likely that park servicing and maintenance will decline, leaving trash cans overflowing, graffiti unabated, irrigation lines unfixed or restrooms uncleaned. The community expects that the City of Austin will maintain facilities and programs, not leave assets on the ground that are poorly maintained or unusable. 


Total Cost: $385,000  

Cost Breakdown: $375,000 ongoing, $10,000 one-time; 4 year-round FTEs + operations + supplies 

The impact of an increase in unhoused camps in parks and greenbelts has been felt across the city. The remains from encampments present safety hazards for park users, as there is currently no dedicated support in PARD for the cleanup and debris removal left when encampments are abandoned.

In January of 2024, a group of temporary maintenance workers was formed to evaluate the need for a dedicated team focused on continued cleanup and maintenance of areas where unhoused camps had been vacated. The team found that continued cleanup was crucial to mitigate the accumulated trash and debris from preventing areas of parks to become unusable. This has allowed park users to safely enjoy our parks and facilities. Having this dedicated team prevents other maintenance schedules from falling behind as it stops regular maintenance staff from being diverted from mowing and other duties to address this need. 

PARD is currently using one-time temporary funding to fund the staff members who are actively removing trash, debris and hazards left by encampments. The temporary funding for the existing team will end in September 2024 and should be replaced with a permanent team of FTEs to continue to address unhoused camp debris on PARD property. On average, the team has cleaned 20 cubic yards of debris from these camps every work day. Without continued cleanup, many areas of parks will become unusable with debris that often contains hazardous materials. This work needs to be done by qualified professionals and temporary positions will not bring the expertise required.

Austin’s parks deserve better, and Austin Parks Foundation remains dedicated to pushing for the funding PARD needs. We ask that you help us advocate for these necessary increases to the PARD budget by contacting your representatives and asking that they please approve all of these requests in the FY-2024-2025 budget to continue the level of service expected in our City’s park system.

Click here to download a list of representative emails, email and phone scripts. Download our detailed budget one pager here.