The Denton Parks and Recreation Department funds its projects, programs, and operations from a number of revenue sources provided by local, state, and federal levels of government. The Parks Department also relies on funding and material support from private organizations, foundations, individual charitable contributions, and public/private partnerships. This post will explain these various funding sources and how they, collectively, help to bring high-quality parks and parks programming to our community.
A majority of the operational funding for the Parks and Recreation Department comes from sources most people are familiar with: sales and property taxes. These tax revenues, along with other revenue sources like fees, represent most of the money that enters the General Fund – or the City’s major clearinghouse of operational funds. For the present fiscal year, the Parks Department has a budget of $28 million in General Fund allocations.
Property and Sales Tax are paid to the City by Denton residents or by people who happen to shop within Denton. Another source of tax revenue, the Hotel Occupancy (HOT) tax, is paid by visitors to Denton who rent a hotel room or short-term rental in the City. State law requires that HOT funds be used to support and enhance local tourism. The Parks and Recreation Department uses HOT funds to support public art, a usage that is clearly supported by HOT fund guidelines developed by the Texas State Comptroller.
In addition to taxes, the City charges fees to users for access to various services and privileges. Fees are a way for the City to offset certain costs, while charging only the users who would benefit from the services, and not every resident (as taxes do). In the Parks and Recreation department, fees are used to offset the costs of programming, for example when you pay for gym access at a rec center.
The Parks and Recreation Department also makes use of fees to support park dedication and park development. These fees are charged to developers to account for the additional parks amenities residents in new neighborhoods will need. Using a formula based on the number of residential dwelling units in a development, City Staff require a developer to provide a certain amount of acreage, or its cash equivalent, for park dedication. Additionally, developers are assessed a park development fee that offsets the cost of transforming a piece of land into a usable park. Often, at City Council and other public meetings, you will hear these sources referred to, collectively, as “915/916” funds. This name is just an internal shorthand for park dedication and development fees, based on the account numbers where these funds are deposited.
Taxes and fees represent major funding sources for ongoing operations and programming. For larger projects, especially those requiring the construction of new facilities, the Parks and Recreation Department relies on bond funding. These funds are essentially loans taken out against the City’s future ability to levy taxes on its residents. To secure bond funding, City staff, with guidance from the City Council, create a number of project proposals that are then presented to voters during a bond election. Voters then either approve or reject individual propositions within the overall bond program. Historically, the Parks and Recreation Department has used bond funding to support purchasing land for parks and trails, renovating and expanding park facilities, supporting master plans, and replacing playgrounds, among other major projects. Bond program packages also sometimes include a public art component, either as a percentage of all park bond vertical construction projects (meaning any building project that is not a flat surface, like a road), or as a standalone item for consideration.
Other Municipal Funding Sources
The Department also receives funding from two separate trust funds. The McKenna Trust Fund was established by George McKenna, a former Denton resident, who helped realize a park named in his honor with an initial $8,000 donation in 1952. Upon his death, he established a trust fund for the park’s continued maintenance and improvement with a $32,500 endowment. Over the years the McKenna Trust Fund has provided a relatively small, but steady source of funds, with around $8,000 in income accruing to the City annually.
The Parks Gas Well Fund provides around $50,000 annually to the department and includes the revenues accruing to the City for natural resource extraction from parks properties. It is important to note that this does not mean that there are active gas wells on Parks properties, but instead that the Parks and Recreation department is receiving royalties for resources that lie beneath parklands. These funds are restricted to park system use only.
Funds from the State of Texas
The State of Texas provides funding to the Parks and Recreation Department through various grant programs. For example, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) provides Green Ribbon funds for landscaping on highway medians and roadsides to beautify and mitigate air pollution. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) offers grants for numerous recreational programs including kayak launches and park and trail development. The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) provides funding to support the purchase of art or the development of arts programming in the City’s cultural district – the Original Denton District.
Like the State government, the Federal government provides funding to the City of Denton through various grants. The most impactful source of federal funding for the Parks and Recreation Department is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). CDBG grants have provided funding for several projects at Quakertown, Fred Moore, Sequoia, and Carl Young Sr. Parks. These grants are intended to strengthen low- to moderate-income communities.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government approved a broad funding package to support economic recovery. Funding from this stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), has been used by the Parks Department to fund improvements at the Carl Young Sprayground, Joe Skiles Park, and Denia Park.
In addition to funds received from municipal taxes and fees, and state and federal grants, Parks and Recreation relies on support from private grants, grants from regional intergovernmental organizations, revenue derived from public/private partnerships, and private donations.
Private grants are usually channeled through the Denton Parks Foundation – the charitable foundation established to help the Parks Department meet its external funding goals. Recently the Parks and Recreation Department received $30,000 from the United States Tennis Association to support various improvements to tennis courts. Wells Fargo donated $10,000 for tree planting.
Regional intergovernmental organizations like the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) provide funding to support efforts directed at regional concerns. NCTCOG recently supported a waste and recycling pilot project within Denton Parks. Public/private partnerships, like that between the Denton Parks Foundation and Denton County Brewing Company to create Triple Play a custom beer that provides a portion of its profits to Denton Parks, allows the department to provide unique offerings to the public while still supporting Parks System goals.
Finally, Denton Parks Foundation occasionally receives private donations from individuals and foundations. For example, the Tim Brewer Memorial Fund recently donated $10,000 to support ball field improvements at Denia Park.
Taken collectively, these funding sources allow us to best leverage and augment the money we receive directly from local taxpayers so that we can continue to provide the excellent levels of park programming, amenities, and services that our residents expect.