2013 Issue 80, Parks Levy

2013 Issue 80, Parks Levy

I.          Summary

            This measure will appear on the ballot for all Cuyahoga County voters for the General Election on November 5, 2013.  A vote for the tax levy would mean that the Cleveland Metroparks would renew the existing 1.8-mill levy that was approved in 2004, with an increase of 0.9 mills. The slight increase was considered necessary to offset declining property values and a reduction in state funding as well as to fund major improvements. This 2.7 mill issue is a 10-year [1.8 mill renewal plus an additional 0.9 mill] levy that costs $1.85 per week for a $100,000 property. 

A vote against the levy would eliminate the tax.   According to the Metroparks, the levy is Cleveland Metroparks’ ONLY local support and without the levy, approximately 62% of the Park District’s annual $89 million budget. If this levy fails, the Metroparks levy will go back on the ballot in 2014.

II.        Background

            A.        Ballot Language

            The source of this language is the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

 

80 - PROPOSED TAX LEVY (RENEWAL AND INCREASE) CLEVELAND METROPOLITAN PARK DISTRICT

A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage A renewal of an existing levy of 1.8 mills and an increase of 0.9 mill to constitute a tax for the benefit of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District (known as Cleveland Metroparks including the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo) for the purpose of conserving the natural resources and maintaining, repairing, improving, planning, acquiring, developing, protecting and promoting the use of existing and future lands and facilities, and for any other lawful purpose of the park district, at a rate not exceeding 2.7 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to 27 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for ten years, commencing in 2013, first due in calendar year 2014.

 

80 - PROPUESTA PARA RECAUDACIÓN DE IMPUESTOS (RENOVACIÓN Y AUMENTO) DISTRITO DE PARQUE METROPOLITANO DE CLEVELAND

Se requiere un voto afirmativo por mayoría para su aprobación Un renovación sobre la recaudación existente de 1.8 milésimos y un aumento de 0.9 milésimo para constituir un impuesto que beneficiará al Distrito de Parque Metropolitano de Cleveland (conocido como Cleveland Metro Parks incluyendo el parque zoológico Cleveland Metroparks) con el fin de conservar los recursos naturales y mantener, reparar, mejorar, planear, adquirir, desarrollar, proteger y promover el uso de tierras y facilidades existentes y futuras, y para cualquier otro propósito legal del distrito de parques a una tasa que no exceda los 2.7 milésimos por cada dólar de valoración, lo cual representa 27 centavos por cada cien dólares de valoración, por diez años, comenzando en el 2013, con su primer vencimiento en el año calendario del 2014.

 

            B.        Cost Summary

            At the current levy rate of 1.8 mills, for every $100,000 of home value, the owner pays about $64 a year, or roughly $1.20 a week. If the new measure passes, that same home owner will pay $94 a year instead, or $1.80 per week.

The current millage rate raises $52.7 million per year which equates to about 62 percent of the park system’s current $89-million budget. The levy increase would bring in $74.9 million a year, thus raising the current budget to about $111-million.

C.        Use of Funds

            The 50% millage increase that the levy creates will fund ongoing operations and maintenance of Cleveland Metroparks’ nearly 23,000 acres which includes 18 park reservations, miles of trails and the Zoo.

            Another reason cited for raising the levy from the current 1.8-mill rate is the need to help finance more than $100 million of improvements over the next 10 years, including $28 million dedicated to the lakefront parks like Edgewater, Gordon and Euclid Beach, along with numerous marinas and yacht clubs that were added to the Metroparks system in June, when the state of Ohio relinquished control of the lakefront parks. 

            As part of other projected improvements, the Metroparks is helping to bring the Towpath Trail to the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. Also, funds will also go towards last year’s acquisition of 2.8 acres in downtown Cleveland along the east bank of the Cuyahoga at Irishtown Bend. Called Rivergate Park, the property includes a waterfront promenade and a café and will be the park system's hub along the river. It's next door to the Cleveland Rowing Foundation's boathouse and land that the city of Cleveland is turning into a park for skateboarders.

The system is also still digesting the former Acacia Country Club in Lyndhurst, which was donated to the Metroparks after being acquired by the Conservation Fund, a Virginia nonprofit.

 

            D.        History

            Cleveland Metroparks was established in 1917 to provide open space for the people of Greater Cleveland and conserve the natural valleys of the area. The first Board of Park Commissioners created a comprehensive plan for the acquisition of park land, envisioning a system of connected parkways encircling the city of Cleveland.

In November 2004, the electorate of the Metroparks service area (Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township in Medina) supported a 10‐year 1.8 mill property tax levy. The levy will expire in December 2014.

With clean financial audits for 17 years, tax dollars are spent wisely. The Park District is debt free because Cleveland Metroparks made tough decisions to address past funding reductions without borrowing money.        

Since the 2004 ballot issue, Cleveland Metroparks feels they have made tough choices to address the funding reductions they faced by reducing energy costs, controlling hiring, economizing employee benefits, and managing equipment purchases and improvement projects. However, one may ask if the Metroparks should trim and tuck more in order to operate within their means rather than asking taxpayers for a 50% increase during hard times.

III.       Additional Resources

CoolCleveland, Endorsement

http://www.coolcleveland.com/blog/2013/10/endorsement-yes-on-issue-80-on-cleveland-metroparks/

League of Women Voters Cuyahoga Area, Endorsement

http://74.220.207.159/~lwvcuyah/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Election_Issues_for_Advocacy-2.pdf

Cleveland Plain Dealer

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2013/07/metroparks_board_approves_incr.html

Crain’s Cleveland

http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20130915/SUB1/309159989#

Greater Cleveland Partnership, Endorsement

http://www.gcpartnership.com/Advocacy/2013-Levies/Issue-80-Cleveland-Metroparks-Levy.aspx

Cleveland Metroparks, Financial Information

http://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/Financial-Information.aspx

Cleveland Metroparks, Levy FAQ’s

http://ourparksareworthit.com/frequently-asked-questions/

 

IV.       Summary

            The Citizens League is not taking a position on this issue.  It is providing this information in order to educate voters about the pros and cons of the levy.