The park system’s current levy generated about $15.5 million in tax year 2016, which is about $1.7 million less than it produced in tax year 2010, according to Montgomery County Auditor’s Office data. The estimates are based on a 95 percent collection rate.
The proposed replacement levy with the additional millage is projected to generate about $18.1 million, which is not a lot more than the park’s levy did in 2010, said Alan Pippenger, the president of the Board of Park Commissioners.
“It really is a levy to allow us to keeping doing what we have and maintain the system we’ve built,” he said. “It’s a slight increase.”
The next step would be for the park board to vote to place the levy on the ballot, which is expected to take place next month.
The existing levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $52.21 per year, the auditor’s office said.
If the proposed levy is approved by voters, the cost to property owners would be an additional $1.24 more per month, per $100,000 of property value, the parks said.
The replacement levy is expected to cost the standard owner of a $100,000 home about $70 annually, parks officials said.
The higher millage is needed because the costs to maintain the park system have increased over the years and MetroParks has lost other state and local funding support, Pippenger said.
Heading to the ballot in November means MetroParks would have multiple opportunities to return to the ballot if its measure was unsuccessful on the first try before its current levy expires.
“We’re running out of time to bring it to the voters and we don’t want to wait until the last minute,” Pippenger said.
MetroParks has about 3.6 million visitors annually, and more than 300,000 people attended MetroParks programs annually. The park system manages 16,000 acres and has 160 miles of trails.
MetroParks in recent years developed a 10-year master plan using input from surveys and other methods to identify community priorities and decide where to focus its resources, said Rebecca Benná, the executive director of Five Rivers MetroParks.
Trails and programming that brings people together are among the most valued Metroparks’ offerings, and the community wants the park system to protect local waterways and green space, she said. The system contains about 18 parks.
MetroParks needs to be prepared for the future, and it is very important that organization continues to provide free access to the park system, Benná said.
“This levy is very important to us — it funds 80 percent of what we do,” she said.
In November 2009, more than 70 percent of voters approved the Five Rivers MetroParks’ 1.8 mill replacement levy. The levy was for 10 years. In 2000, the MetroParks’ 1.8-mill replacement levy passed with the approval of nearly two-thirds of voters.
That replaced a 1.2-mill levy that dated back to 1994.
MetroParks employs about 297 people, which includes full-time, part-time and seasonal and temporary workers, said Bill Tschirhart, MetroParks’ chief of administration.
The levy would last through the end of 2028. MetroParks has sought new revenue through partnerships, sponsorships and fees, which generated nearly $1 million last year, organization officials said.
RELATED: Public input sought for MetroParks plans
Brief history of Five Rivers MetroParks funding
- 1965: Montgomery County voters passed 0.3-mill, 10-year levy
- 1974: Voters renewed levy, add 0.2 mills
- 1984: Voters renew 0.5-mill levy for 10 years
- 1988: 0.7-mill levy is passed and replaces prior levy
- 1994: County voters approve 10-year, 1.2-mill levy
- 2000: Voters approve a new 1.8-mill, 10-year replacement levy
- 2009: Voters approve 1.8-mill, 10-year replacement levy