Income tax

Voters to vote on permanent income tax for city parks on Tuesday


LANCASTER – Voters in the city will decide on Tuesday whether to convert a five-year renewal tax for the parks department to a continuous or permanent tax.

The Lancaster Parks Tax would also increase the income tax rate from 0.15% to 0.25%, generating around $ 1 million in additional revenue each year starting Jan. 1, 2023, the superintendent said. of parks, Mike Tharp.

He said the tax levies for Lancaster’s parks have remained the same for 35 years and have been offered every five years. If this levy were to pass, a new levy would not need to be proposed unless a change in the tax rate is requested.

“Right now, when you have a five-year levy and it’s for the measure that we have, the dollar amount, you can’t pledge against it,” Tharp said. “You can lend against it, but the loan is very tiny.”

He said until the last park tax, the city had always borrowed $ 100,000 for trucks and lawn mowers for the parks department and was paying them back in five years. But after the last drawdown, the city borrowed $ 200,000 for the parks.

“But we can’t take advantage of capital improvement,” Tharp said. “We’re looking at $ 180,000 to repave Rising Park and stuff like that. It’s just not in the budget. You have to be able to leverage your bond against something.”

The city has 32 park properties, 28 of which are called parks. Some, however, like Alley Park, are located outside the city.

Tuesday’s attempted levy is not the same one voters adopted in the spring to fund the Fairfield County park system. City parks and county parks are two separate things.

Tharp said that, if approved, the additional revenue would allow the parks department to take care of some much-needed areas, including making improvements to Rising Park, hiring park rangers or contracting with park rangers. local law enforcement, raising salaries for lifeguards at swimming pools, and making improvements to Miller. and Tiki pools.

“There is a need for rangers or people on leave, or what they call special duty people, in the parks,” Tharp said. “Whether it’s the sheriff’s department or the police department, we have to find a way to get them back into the parks system. This is something that we have lost over the years and that we have to bring back. haven’t had this since 2010 when we lost all of our rangers because of funding. “

There are other improvements that Tharp said he would like to see in the city parks.

He said a survey of residents showed that a wading pool was the No.1 thing they wanted. He also said he would like the city to build a park in River Valley Highlands.

“A community like River Valley Highlands deserves and should have had one a long time ago,” Tharp said. “A neighborhood park with a refuge and a playground and all the amenities that a park like this should have.”

He said a park in River Valley Highlands would likely cost over $ 500,000.

Tharp said he would also like to see a walking trail at Rising Park that allows people to exit the road through the park.

“Someone is going to be affected someday,” he said. “There are no footpaths in Rising Park. People walk on this thing day in and day out. They’re there at dawn, they walk until nightfall. It’s very busy. C ‘is mixed-use. You have runners, walkers, and automobiles on the same piece of sidewalk. And it doesn’t work very well. “

Tharp, however, said he was not convinced voters had embraced the levy.

“No,” he said. “I have high hopes. I have wishful thinking. I love the way this city thinks about tax and parks. I wish I could be sure this would go forward. I have high hopes and I’m wishful thinking. I don’t know what you want to call it. It’s not for me, it’s for the community. It’s us who are trying to give the community what we always hear that the community wants.

Tharp said his lack of confidence stemmed from people not liking the change, like making the levy permanent.

He also said he was concerned that some people might confuse this tax with the county park tax.

“Some people don’t know the difference between city parks and county parks,” Tharp said. “Some people don’t even know that there are two different park systems in this community and this county.”

The city also passed an income tax increase last year, but Tharp said the parks department does not receive any of that money from the general fund.

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Twitter: @JeffDBarron


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