Leander City Council

Leander Council approve major shift of parkland funds to public arts

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In a major funding shift, the Leander City Council voted 6-to-1 to  redirect 15 percent of all future revenues generated from developers through the City of Leander's Parkland Dedication requirements to the city's Public Arts Fund.

It is still unclear how much the significant policy shift will impact future funding for parks and park improvements. But, the city's cautious approach to using these funds means it is unlikely to impact the next few city budgets.

The Parkland Dedication Ordinance requires multi-family residential developers to dedicate a portion of their land to creating a park, or alternatively pay a Fee-In-Lieu at the rate of $1,050 per Dwelling Unit. 

The city typically only sees a few developments pay the Fee-In-Lieu in a given year, so annual revenues from this source can range from $300,000 to $700,000, according to Leander Finance Director Robert Powers.

He said the city adjusts for this variance by not planning budgets based on projected revenues. Instead, Powers said, they use only the already received revenues from prior years. He said the revenues are used for Capital Improvement projects to create or improve city parks.

Since the city typically see at least $300,000 in a given year, the 15 percent shift could move at least $45,000 per year over to public arts.

The ordinance change is a follow-up by city staff to a different agenda item Leander Mayor Troy Hill previously sought as part of his effort to fund more public art and other improvements to supplement the city's revitalization efforts in the Old Town District. City staff said this change will resolve some issues and make the funding usable for any public arts effort, including in the Old Town District. Staff said more Old Town focused items are coming in future agendas. 

The 15 percent funding shift was one of three options considered by the council Thursday, which included two other options that would have increased fees and shifted that new revenue to the Public Arts Fund. 

Hill argued for increasing the funds but his motion failed after failing to get a second. Several other council members stated they didn't feel comfortable raising fees on developers.

Council member Christine Sederquist, the council's liaison on the Leander Public Arts Board, said she supports generating more funds for public arts.  However, she voted against the measure because she objected to making such significant changes without first getting feedback from the Board. She noted the Leander Planning and Zoning Commission itself had recommended getting the Board's input before finalizing approving any changes.

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