Simply put, House Bill 2 & Senate Bill 2 (or HB 2 & SB 2) are bad news for Austin’s public parks. In exchange for small property tax relief for homeowners estimated at a few dollars per month, municipalities will face a budgetary crisis. The bill will cause an out-sized negative impact towards their ability to provide services central to residents’ quality of life.
This includes devastating cuts to parks budgets, limiting the ability of these governmental entities to properly maintain and operate public parks. In short, the bill reduces the ability of the public to access quality green spaces.
Public Parks Are Important to Our Communities
Public parks, trails and green space are central to the quality of life for all Texans, whether they live in cities, suburbs or rural areas. They provide benefits far beyond their environmental and ecological contributions. They are places where anyone, regardless of race and class, can find opportunities for recreation and exercise critical to a healthy lifestyle.
Active parks contribute to safer neighborhoods, and provide an economic boost to the surrounding area. They are one of the last public and democratic spaces left in our communities, places where we are all able to gather, meet one another and create and cultivate community.
There is widespread bipartisan support for our cities, counties and towns to offer well-maintained public parks to their residents. Even in good economic times without the tax caps under consideration, municipalities have faced large budget gaps in providing proper maintenance, operations and programming in their parks systems.
HB 2 & SB 2 Will Cause a $35 Million+ Deficit
Non-profits like Austin Parks Foundation work hard every day to raise private dollars in order to fill gaps between what governmental entities are able to provide and what the public expects and deserves. We are concerned that, should the gap grow due to the effect of HB 2, it may be beyond our ability to address.
In Austin, it is estimated that HB 2 would cause an annual budget deficit of $51.7 million in three years while the typical Austin homeowner would save only $2.70 per month. That deficit equals more than half of the Parks and Recreation Department’s annual budget.
That homeowner savings is far too negligible to justify draconian cuts to the parks budget and other municipal services. Even a different cap, such as the 3.5% passed out of the Senate in SB 2, would equal an annual budget deficit of more than $35 million in Austin, more than a third of our annual parks budget.
Reducing the ability of municipalities to fund services through the caps proposed in HB 2 won’t just result in the disappearance or severe reduction of these services through a thousand cuts – it will be an arrow to the heart of what is essential to the quality of life for all.
Raise Your Voice: Contact Your Representatives
Contact your senate or house member and let them know that HB 2 & SB 2 will hurt our parks. As a community, we need to let our representatives know that we value our parks, trails and green spaces. A few dollars in savings on homeowners tax is not worth damaging our communities.
Want to know who represents you? Click here to find out your State of Texas representatives.
Not sure what to say? We’re here to help! Check out our Template Letter for the 86th Legislature for a head start. Thank you for advocating for Austin’s parks, trails and green spaces!