Orange Township trustees are asking voters to renew a 1-mill parks levy and have created a new road improvement levy at 0.5 mills on the Nov. 8 ballot. Township officials created the .5 mills road improvement levy by reducing the current 1.5-mill park levy due to expire this December.
“I have had all positive responses so far,” said Trustee Debbie Taranto. “It makes sense is what I’m told.”
Taranto said most people are aware that township roads need attention and they like the idea of accomplishing that with no increase in taxes. She said one person wished we had more discussion. He wasn’t against the reduction in the parks levy, but wanted to make sure the parks were covered.
Taranto said she is working on a better way to communicate with the public. She said she wants to invite experts to discuss important issues in a public forum. “I’m hoping that this will be a way to reach out to more people,” she said.
It takes about $1 million a year to maintain and operate the parks. Unless the township builds something major, the reduction in the parks levy will maintain them, according to Taranto. “We continue to be very successful with grants which has allowed us to do this,” she said. “The money has gone farther.”
Taranto said, to educate the public about the renewal of the 1-mill park levy and the new road improvement levy the township has put it in the newsletter, on the website and posted it on Facebook. “There is also a Public Action Committee with about 10 members who will go door to door,” she said.
Trustee Lisa Knapp said she is a “parks freak” and is “100 percent in favor of the parks.”
“I do use the parks and I do love the parks. We just don’t need need this levy right now,” Knapp said. “We have other resources.”
Knapp considers the other resources to be grants that have been awarded to the township for various parks projects.
“There are no planned projects for parks that I’m aware of,” Knapp said.
Knapp said she feels there needs to be a timeline laid out in the simplest possible way for people to understand.
“I have asked for the information to be laid out; they (parks department) didn’t do that,” she said. “We need to communicate with the public in writing what we’re going to do with the money,” she said. “If it was broken down, then I would be in favor of it.”
“The township has grown,” Knapp said. “If that has grown, then revenue has grown.”
Knapp said she doesn’t think the roads are any worse than they have been in the past. “Passing this levy isn’t going to fix all the problems,” she said. “We have never discussed having a roads levy before, but it might be wise to have a roads levy in the future. I’m totally into looking into it for the future.”
Trustee Rob Quigley said over the years there has been discussion on the needs of the roads and the status of parks projects. “Trustees have been provided with documentation for to make them aware of the needs,” he said.
Quigley said the money in the budget for parks is for “projects in the works to add more fields and trails.”
“There is no surplus in parks,” Quigley said. “The proposed reduced 1-mill park levy will ensure we are able to properly support and maintain parks and trails going forward.”
The roads were built at the same time and are now deteriorating. “We are now seeing many roads in need of repair and the new .5 mill levy will allow us to address this growing issue,” Quigley said. “The reduction of the park levy and the addition of a roads levy, the intent was to minimize the impact of any increase in taxes while ensuring we are properly addressing the needs of the township.”
According to a report from Township Administrator Lee Bodnar, 1-mill park levy renewal will yield $1.1 million per year, while a new 0.5-mill road levy will produce $579,000 per year, both are three year levies if approved by voters.
Bodnar said the township has $12 million in projects on the books, with $6 million in cash reserves for parks.
In a trustee meeting in July, Beth Hugh, township maintenance and park director, suggested reducing the 1.5-mill park levy renewal to 1 mill and applying the other 0.5-mill to a new levy for road improvements. “We’ve been successful in getting (park) grants,” Hugh said. “We’re saving money.”
Bodnar said there have been 50 miles of new residential roads added to the township in the last 10 years.
“All those roads will deteriorate at the same rate,” he said. “The cost will be too heavy for the township to maintain all of the roads.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.