A new nature center for Blacklick Woods Metro Park and continuing work to prepare Quarry Trails Metro Park for opening are included in the 2020 budget that the Metro Parks board of commissioners adopted Dec. 6.

The budget includes a boost in salaries for top administrators as revenue from a higher property tax rolls in.

The $35.6 million spending plan the board approved is 19% higher than the $29.9 million the district expects to spend in 2019.

The district is collecting revenue from a 10-year, 0.95-mill property tax that Franklin County voters approved in November 2018. It had been a 0.75-mill tax the previous 10 years.

The new tax is projected to bring in $28.9 million in 2020, up from a projected $20.5 million this year.

The budget includes 5% raises for four top administrators next year, bringing executive director Tim Moloney's annual salary to $148,140, deputy director Larry Peck's to $142,571, finance director Rick McGivern's to $110,250 and human-resources director Renee Telfer's to $108,043.

In addition, Moloney received a $10,000 bonus, Peck and Telfer $5,000 and McGivern $3,000.

The bulk of the new property-tax revenue will be used by Metro Parks to boost its capital-improvements budget from an estimated $5.5 million this year to $8.9 million in 2020.

The district plans to spend $3.5 million on the new Blacklick Woods nature center. Moloney said it would be more visible to visitors and similar to the nature centers at Highbanks and Battelle Darby metro parks.

The new center might have a live-animal exhibit, Moloney said. He doesn't know what it would be, but he knows what it won't.

"No bison," he said, referring to the star attractions at Battelle Darby.

The district also will spend $2.5 million for projects at the new Quarry Trails Metro Park on the west bank of the Scioto River near Upper Arlington. The work will include connecting the ponds on the site to the Scioto River, redirecting a ditch, creating a single-track bicycling area, installing utilities and building an observation deck and parking lot at a waterfall site.

Moloney said he expects the first phase of Quarry Trails -- 62 acres -- to open by spring 2021. The park's total acreage will be 220.

Metro Parks also will spend $1 million on Homestead Park in Hilliard, including improved parking, more restrooms and shelters, a revamped play area and upgraded trails that include a better connection to the nearby Heritage Rail Trail.

The Metro Parks board also will move $300,000 from its general fund to cover an operating deficit ($125,000) and new golf carts ($175,000) at its Blacklick Woods Golf Course. Moloney told the board Dec. 6 revenue this year increased by 12% over 2018, from $850,252 to $953,376, but the facility still operated in the red.

He attributed the increase in revenue to new programs that eliminated green fees at the three-hole and nine-hole courses for Franklin County residents. That resulted in more people paying to play the 18-hole course, where Franklin County residents still pay green fees, and to use the driving range.

Revenue at the 18-hole course was up 25%, while driving-range revenue was up 50%, Moloney said.

JB Hadden, one of the three commissioners on the board, said he had been a little cynical about the golf-course initiatives but acknowledged they are working.

The budget also includes money for one new full-time ranger each at Glacier Ridge and Prairie Oaks metro parks, which have seen increasing levels of attendance.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }