By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Supporters of Philadelphia’s vast Fairmount Park system packed City Council chambers today, urging the lawmakers to restore park system funding that has been cut in recent years.
Park advocates, including some schoolchildren, chanted in the Council chamber. They want councilmembers to restore what they say is $8 million in funding to the Fairmount Park system that has been cut in the past four years.
Council members including Cindy Bass voiced support:
“The idea that we have cut eight million dollars from the budget, to me is just unacceptable,” she said.
But city budget director Rebecca Rhynhart (photo) said that eight million more for the parks would mean cuts elsewhere.
“If we decide we want to give more money to Parks and Rec, because there’s limited revenue we’ll have to talk about what departments we need to cut. And that’s the unfortunate conversation that we would need to have,” Rhynhart told the lawmakers today.
Council members didn’t seem satisfied. They asked Michael DiBerardinis, the commissioner of parks and recreation, if he favored a restoration of the $8 million. DiBerardinis (far left in photo), who answers to the mayor, took a diplomatic approach.
“Like everybody else in government, like every other department head, sure we could use more money, we could put it to good effect. But I think our challenge is to use the money we have to the absolute best effect,” he said.
In 2008, the budget for Parks and Recreation was just under $52 million. The mayor proposes for the coming year a budget of $47.8 million. But critics say $2.1 million of that is funding from outside sources, and that the portion from the city’s General Fund is actually $45.7 million, or about $8 million less than four years ago.
The budget hearings continue for another month.