MetroParks seeks levy renewal and increase

MetroParks is seeking to renew its current 0.5-mill levy and a 0.2-mill increase to fund its operations starting in 2017. The current revenues for the park district with the current 0.5-mill levy are $3.4 million.

If voters approve the request during the March 15 primary election, it would generate about $5.16 million for the parks system.

The renewal and increase would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would be $24.50 a year or about seven cents a day or an additional $9.19 a year, according to an estimate from the Butler County Auditor’s Office.

The current 0.5-mill levy costs that same owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $15.31 a year.

“The funding will be used to keep the parks open, clean and safe,” said Kelly Barkley, MetroParks senior manager of community relations. “In addition, when the parks are open, they are a real asset to the county.”

Mark Hecquet, executive director of the Butler County Visitors Bureau, said the Voice of America Park in West Chester Twp. attracted some 40,000 spectators and participants from 14 major events assisted by the visitors bureau. He said those events alone represented a direct economic impact of just under $4 million and about $13 million in overall economic impact to the county.

“Certainly the VOA park has been a tremendous economic benefit not only to the surrounding area around VOA park but to the entire county,” he said.

Barkley also said levy revenues have also helped to fund various partnerships, collaborations and sponsorships for capital projects, including the proposed River Center facility in Middletown as well as the expansion of the sports fields at Voice of America Park in West Chester Twp. and working with the city of Fairfield on its Marsh Park expansion.

MetroParks is working on other partnerships with other communities to improve recreational opportunities as well, including its future acquisition of the Weatherwax Golf Course in Middletown through a planned sale being facilitated by the Trust for Public Lands after the current lease ends in late 2016.

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback,” Barkley said. “Passage of the levy would be a vote of confidence that we’re doing our jobs.”

MetroParks’ levy revenues help to maintain the parks as well as subsidize most programming costs for county residents, Barkley said. In addition, all county residents, which she calls the “park customers and owners,” can obtain a free motor vehicle permit to access all of the parks.

The increase was needed, she said, as state budget cuts has cut its funding for parks by 50 percent and that operational and maintenance costs have increased due to increased park visitation. Barkley said without the levy funding, MetroParks would need to close parks and/or reduce park maintenance as it does not receive any funding from the county’s General Fund.

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