Franklin County voters will decide a 10-year, 0.95-mill replacement levy on the Nov. 6 ballot that would give Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks the money to build new parks and expand its trails.

If approved, the tax would cost $33.25 a year beginning in 2020 for the owner of a house with a valuation of $100,000. That's an increase of $12.82, or more than 38 percent, from the $20.43 per $100,000 that property owners are paying under the current 10-year, 0.75-mill levy voters approved in 2009. That levy expires at the end of 2019.

"It's a dollar a month to build three new parks, 50 miles of trails, new forests, new wetlands," said Tim Moloney, Metro Parks executive director.

It also would give the parks system more money to expand programs, including more night and weekend activities for such groups as seniors or night disc golf at Blendon Woods Metro Park.

The levy would raise $22.6 million to $28.6 million per year. Not only would that allow the system to expand, but it also would provide money to maintain existing parks, Moloney said.

The system opened its 19th park, Scioto Grove Metro Park in Grove City, in 2016. It is developing its next park, the 220-acre Quarry Trails Metro Park, on a quarry site west of the Scioto River and Upper Arlington.

Moloney said an expanded system over the next 10 years would better serve a central Ohio population expected to grow by up to 1 million people by 2050.

Through September, Metro Parks had drawn almost 8.4 million visitors, up 5 percent from the 8 million it drew through September 2017.

Greg Lashutka, one of three parks commissioners, said adding parks and trails -- the system has 230 miles of trails -- is consistent with Metro Parks' mission of conservation.

"I think people recognize that the parks have been well-run," Lashutka said.

If the parks district stuck with the 0.75-mill "maintenance" levy, he said, it would be out of money in three years.

Moloney said even with the 0.95-mill levy, the district will likely run into a budget deficit by 2027. But he expects Metro Parks to find other sources of revenue to carry it through the final three years of the levy cycle.

One concern: Metro Parks now receive $3 million from the state's local-government fund. The state cut that funding by 50 percent over the past 10 years. Moloney said if that money were to go away, it would challenge the parks district.

Aryeh Alex, president of the Friends of Metro Parks and director of the Friends for the Parks levy campaign, said the district's goal is to have a Metro Park within 5 miles of everyone in Franklin County.

Alex said 300 volunteers have signed up to campaign for the levy, going out on the weekends and knocking on doors.

"There's always resistance. Some individuals don't want to pay an increase," Alex said.


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