The Miami County Park District has the only countywide issue before voters Nov. 7 with a request for a 10-year replacement levy with increase to help pay for growing programs for an increasing number of visitors to the parks and their offerings.
After operating off a 1.1-mill levy since 2001, the board is asking for a 1.5 mill, 10-year replacement levy with increase. The levy would generate $3,417,486 a year or around $900,000 more than the current levy, which is in its seventh year.
The new levy would cost the owner of a home with $100,000 value $52.50 a year, an increase of $20.90, according to the Miami County Auditor’s Office.
“The park district only operates on a single levy and we are currently working in a deficit. The board has gone out early in the past couple of levy cycles to avoid services to the community being impacted,” said Scott Myers, park district executive director.
The current levy expires in 2019 but the board chose to go to voters early to give “a little buffer in case any issues arise” and to have guaranteed funding required for the district to be eligible for some grants, Myers said.
The old levy would be canceled and replaced with the new one, if approved.
The district’s income this year is $2,396,487 from the existing levy, $187,330 from grants and $377,913 from other sources. The general budget expense breakdown has $720,791 for administration, $1,933,849 for operations and $568,575 for education.
The district has 18 full-time staff members, up from 15 in 2009 and has hired several additional part-time staff to handle demands, Myers said.
Levy income would be used to protect the environment, provide environmental education programs for children, offer outdoor programs throughout the year and promote health and wellness while maintaining the parks and their amenities.
If approved, the park board is looking to add programs to meet the needs of visitors, add public restroom at Lost Creek Reserve east of Troy and fulfill a commitment of $100,000 toward additional off-road bike trail development.
If the levy does not pass, the park board would re-visit a community survey conducted in 2016 and talk with community members to determine when to put a levy back on the ballot, Myers said.
He pointed to the following accomplishments since the last levy approval: completing the north-south connection of the Great Miami River Recreational Trail, including the Robert J. Shook bridge; opening three new parks with Maple Ridge Reserve, John A. Wannemacher Reserve and Farrington Reserve; providing three additional canoe/kayak access to the Miami River and four accesses along the Stillwater River; establishing 15 acres of pollinator habitat; and planting thousands of native trees.
The district continues with its popular community events including Hug the Earth Festival, Farm Fall Fest and the Charleston Falls Evening of Lights. It also continues educational partnerships with schools across the county.
PARK DISTRICT THROUGH THE YEARS:
The Miami County Park District reports it has seen the following increases since the current 1.1-mill levy was approved by voters in 2001:
*132 percent increase in visitation from 2001 to 2016 (2017 projected visitation is 895,182 which would be a 206 percent increase over 2001)
*Increase from 12 programs in 2001 to 260 programs
*172 percent increase in nature trails
* 64 percent increase in land
* Creation of 12 miles of bike trail
* With the additional use, comes additional maintenance and law enforcement necessary to maintain clean, safe parks