Oak Harbor Village Council has been talking about the need for a park levy for a couple of months and on Monday members reviewed a break-down on park maintenance, expenses, needs and proposed future projects compiled by Interim Administrator Randy Genzman.
The analysis led them all to agree that they would likely have to go to voters for a park levy this year to generate cash just to help maintain the status quo.
Council reviewed several millage options up to 5-mills and zeroed in on a 3-mill levy. That amount would generate $132,000 annually. For the owner of a home valued at $100,000, the cost would be about $105 a year. A 1-mill levy would bring in about $44,000 a year, while a 5-mill would generate $222,000 annually.
“This year we are cutting seasonal staff by 50 percent. It is not going to look as good,” Genzman said of recent cuts made to keep the budget in line. “If you want to get our parks back to the way they should be and people appreciating them – the 3-mill would not cover that.”
But council members figure it’s a start.
Mayor Bill Eberle noted that if the levy did pass, the council could supplement the parks fund with some cash instead of the general fund footing the entire bill.
“You don’t want to ask too much,” Councilman Jon Fickert said. “You want to be reasonable.”
What amazed him, Eberle said, was the number of properties under the parks department umbrella. Properties mowed and maintained by part-time and seasonal staff include Veterans Memorial Park, Flat Iron Park, Kraemer Park, Riverfront, Red Hawk Run Storm Basin, the wooded area north of Red Hawk Run, Fremont Oil, LaCarne Booster Station, Salem Sewer District lift stations, Department of Public Works building, Main Street water tower, a meter building, municipal building, administration building and roadsides throughout the village.
“We take a lot for granted that we never see,” Councilman Jim Seaman added.
All the parks get used a lot but they require some major fix-ups that have long been put on back burners, Fickert stressed along with his counterpart Sue Rahm.
“I’m just a big believer in that if you don’t give kids something to do they’re going to find something to get into,” Rahm said.
The real challenge will be laying out a media campaign that’ll garnish voter support.
“We need to show what we will give back in exchange for that support,” Councilman Jackie Macko said.
Seaman suggested “kicking it up a notch” by focusing on some improvement that residents want.
“We’re asking for $132,000 annually. We need to say we need this for more than mowing the lawns,” the councilman said.
Councilman Don Douglas agreed. For residents to buy into the park levy, they’ll want a reasonable return.
One thought, he said, is weaving a major project into the deal like updating the main shelter house at Veterans Park and adding roll down sides.
Even if a levy passes this year, the village will not see any of the money until 2016, Village Solicitor Jim Barney said.
The Oak Harbor Library Board recently asked the village for its support to put a levy on the ballot this year in the wake of state cuts that have contributed to reduced hours and dropped services.
The library levy would affect residents living in the Benton-Carroll-Salem School District. The village levy would only affect residents within Oak Harbor’s corporation limits.