160815 Great Parks Levy

GREAT PARKS LEVY

Resolution -- That the Cincinnatus Association endorse the Great Parks of Hamilton County levy, Issue _, to fund continued management and protection of Hamilton County Parks.

Issue:

Great Parks of Hamilton County operates 17,000 acres of parkland, including Sharon Woods, Winton Woods, and Miami Whitewater Forest among dozens of other parks, as well as nearly 80 miles of trails, and 40 linear miles of street and river shoreline. If passed this levy will allow Great Parks to continue offering its current level of services and programs including summer concerts and kid-friendly naturalist and fitness programs.

 

This is a 10 year 1 mill levy to replace the current 15 year1 mill levy that expires at the end of 2017. If passed this levy would rescind and replace the current one.

  The levy will raise roughly $18.3 million per year for the next ten years and will cost the owner of $100,000 property $35 per year for 10 years, an increase of $9.45 from the current levy.

 Discussion: 

Some of the projects deemed crucial by park leadership and that would be funded by the levy include:

·        Dredging Sharon Lake at Sharon Woods (not done since 1989) to improve water quality and environment

·        Leading the region in planning for current and future bike trails and upgrading its own bike and hike trails, including repaving the Sharon Woods Harbor Loop Trail

·        Protecting, preserving, and restoring natural resources and wildlife habitat, including honeysuckle removal and the replanting of trees in areas decimated by the emerald ash borer

·        Upgrading playgrounds including those at Winton Woods Harbor

·        Improving accessibility for people with disabilities to facilities across the park, including Lakeside Lodge at Sharon Woods

·        Fixing broken and outdated roadways, parking lots, bridges, dams and building, including paving Lake Isabella Road and parking lot

 

The levy request would cover about 55% of operating costs and 60% of capital projects deemed necessary for completion over the next decade; additional funds supplementing the levy need to be generated from parks entrance fees, government grants and private donations. As an example of governmental funding Great Parks recently applied for nearly $2.6 million in federal assistance to complete the “final mile” of the Little Miami Scenic Trail that would connect the trail to downtown Cincinnati.

 

Effective 1/1/2017 Great Parks will increase park admission from $3 to $5 for a day pass and $10 to $14 for an annual pass for non-Hamilton County residents

 

Park leaders were considering a much larger levy scenarios including one that would have nearly doubled current tax rates but commissioners decided against those proposals believing the current climate for taxes would make support difficult. 

 

Arguments for Endorsement:

·         The Great Parks of Hamilton County are a community treasure that provide extensive recreational, educational, and environmental value. They are particularly focused on programming for children.

·         This a conservative request, a replacement levy that will result in very modest tax increase for property owners

·         Great Parks of Hamilton County delivers services in a cost efficient manner and has demonstrated itself to be good stewards of public and private funds, and an entrepreneurial approach to find additional funding

·         If the levy fails, it would severely affect Great Parks ability to operate, resulting in severe staff cuts and potential closures of parts of the park system

 Arguments Against Endorsement:

·         Some argue that Hamilton County residents are already heavily burdened by high property taxes and that there are other higher priority needs. 

 We are not aware of any organized opposition to this tax levy.

 Recommendation: The Excellence in Government Panel and Executive Committee recommend that the Cincinnatus Association endorse Issue_.