- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Mayor Mike Huether has cut funding for Sioux Falls botanical garden from his proposed 2016 capital budget, raising questions from the city council.

Last year, Huether’s five-year spending plan called for $136,000 in 2016 and another $425,000 in 2017 for improvements to the Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum. But Huether’s 2016 budget plan includes no money for the 115-acre garden, the Argus Leader reported (https://argusne.ws/1JsCs0k ).

Year-to-year changes in budget proposals are expected, but to have a long-term project such as the arboretum cut completely is questionable, City Councilwoman Michelle Erpenbach said.

“This is something that has been in the process for years and for it to suddenly disappear - it didn’t get pushed back, it just disappeared - that’s the piece I don’t understand,” she said.

Huether said his decision to cut next year’s arboretum funding was about prioritizing.

“Sioux Falls has unlimited wants and needs but has limited resources,” he said. “Taxpayers want us to be prudent, responsible and make tough choices.”

Faster-than-expected progress at the botanical garden in recent years also factored into the decision, Parks and Recreation Director Don Kearney said.

“The fast build-out of the arboretum has tasked us operationally a little bit,” he said.

Arboretum Director Lori Kiesow said she is optimistic the council will reinstate next year’s funding, which she said would pay for two new gardens within the arboretum and a wedding lawn.

“We’re disappointed and hoping that if it’s not put in, that it’s not simply wiped off but just postponed,” she said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com


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