SPRINGFIELD TWP.  The Springfield Township Board of Trustees in January approved a resolution to place a 3-mill police renewal levy with an additional 1.5 mills added onto it and a 1.8-mill new tax for the Springfield Township Parks and Recreation Department on the May 2 election ballot.

During the March Board of Trustees meeting, Parks Director Doug Foltz said the township is using the theme of "Safe and Strong."

"We feel if we have strong safety forces, police and fire, we will also have strong parks and roads," he said.

Police levy

According to Police Chief David Hoover, township homeowners would pay the same amount on the renewal portion, however, they would pay an additional amount for the 1.5 mills based on the valuation of their property, which is based on a $100,000 home.

Hoover said the department operates with three levies, two that are continuous and the five-year renewal levy, which brings more than $1,8 million. The department budget for 2015 was $2,710,700 and in 2016 it was 2,698,974. It was decreased because some of the medical payments and workers compensation expenses went down despite costs going up in other areas such as dispatching, which could rise again, according to Hoover. 

Those numbers are only for Springfield and do not include money coming in from and going out to the village of Lakemore, which contracts with Springfield for police protection. Lakemore, however, is in the process of restarting its police department.

Hoover said his department is in need of two new police cruisers because of high mileage on the current vehicles. He explained that while it does have a couple of newer cruisers, one of them his owned by Lakemore. If the village decides to proceed with plans for its own police department, Springfield will lose that car.

The new monies would be used to purchase two new cruisers, paying salaries, buying equipment, training expenses, paying utilities at the department's headquarters and buying gasoline for the cruisers.

"We are pretty much even keel right now," Hoover said. "We are looking into the future - salaries, utilities, telephones, etc."

Contractually, the officers had a 1-percent pay increase in 2016 and 2017 and a pay increase is to be determined for 2018, based upon the levy.

While the Hoover says the department needs the additional money, he adds that it also acquire grant money whenever possible. The department recently applied for a $100,000 grant to pay toward the $150,000 it will cost to upgrade the radios, which need to be replaced due to the new dispatching system.

"We do look into various types of grants, such as equipment grants, DUI grants and others," he said.

Parks and Recreation levy

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Foltz says that his department hopes "the community has seen the improvements we have made over the last few years." The 1.8-mill levy will go toward parks and recreation operational costs.

Foltz says the department has been very good stewards of the taxpayers money and have leveraged grant dollars to build a lot of capital in the parks. He said his department has experienced a returned of about 4 to 1 on township investment as far as money into capital projects.

"With the reduction of estate tax and local government funds, we are looking for this levy to help us with operational costs," he said.

During the March trustees meeting Foltz presented why the need for the levy is crucial:

- The township has lost $800,000 in state support annually, which has drastically impacted the parks system. The levy, he said, provides a sustainable solution that will allow for a specific revenue source for park operations and future capital funding.

- It is projected that the levy will provide $465,482 for the department with a cost to an owner of a $100,000 home of $63 a year or $5.25 per month. "Basically for a coffee at Starbucks or a fast food meal this levy will provide this levy will cover the operating cost for Springfield Parks and provide the  revenue we need for capital projects every year," said Foltz.

- The department manages and maintains 121 acres of land.

- The staff for the parks has four full time employees, one part time and four seasonal.

- In addition to the parks, the department also maintains the Boyd Esler Community Center, five baseball fields, three soccer fields, fitness exercise area, gardens, pavilion, gazebo, two playgrounds, three maintenance buildings and the public restrooms.

- The community center had 700 rentals last year and offers weekly activities, a meal program which served 4,000 people in 2016 and many other community events. Also there were gazebo and pavilion rentals.

- The high school uses the fields for baseball, softball, soccer games and tournaments.

Foltz pointed out that a total of $427,000 was awarded in grants and donations to fund the trail property, easements, trail survey and construction. He listed the trails located in the community and said by December more than two miles of the Spartan Trail will be completed.

Levy funding will be used for improvements at parks, maintenance and expansion of trails and parks, amenities, such as disc golf, increased activities, playground and sports equipment added to parks, canoe and kayak rentals and possibly turn the red maintenance building into an ice cream and snack bar.

"We are here to make memories for families. We have done that without the pirate ship and other play ground equipment," he said.

Foltz also spoke about other events held at the parks: Rock the Docks, Bark in the Park, Concert Series, Food Trucks on the Lake, Car Cruise In, Steak on the Lake, Holiday Lights and Summit County Master Gardeners Program.

"It is critical to our operations to maintain what we have and add to it," he said.

Trustee Dean Young said the township has been working on a shoe-string budget to develop opportunities for people in the community.

"We are in a position that we need the support of the community to continue the progress," Young said. "The people in Springfield enjoy the work that has been done and really it is only the beginning."

Future plans for the Parks and Recreation Department includes building more play structures. Foltz said in the past residents have had to go to other communities for their children to play in a park. Now, the township has some nice facilities at Springfield Lake and the plan is to add those type of structures to other township parks.

Also an extension of the Spartan Trail is on the agenda as the department continues to work with grant dollars for that project.

"We are hoping the public will get involved to help decide the future of Springfield parks with some more longterm planning involving some of our area parks," said Foltz.

The two playgrounds at Lakefront Park were built with two grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. At the Lakefront, plans have been discussed to turn the existing building into a concession stand with drinks, snacks and ice cream. There are also plans to rent canoes and kayaks if the department gets the additional money through the levy.

Work at Dallas Fraley Park, such as making the restrooms handicap accessible, building a shelter and putting in a play structure has been discussed. With the levy and through grants, Foltz says the township can make it a place families would want to go.

At Pressler Park, located where Fire Station No. 2 used to be, the parks board would like to put in a disc golf area, possibly a basketball court and a play structure. Officials say they are also open for ideas from residents of what they would like to see put there. Through grant money, the townhip was able to repair and update the fire station building with plans of making it year-round rental space. 

There has been discussion of a dog park, more soccer fields, tennis courts and other ideas for township parks.

Foltz, who has been parks director for more than three years, said the goal is to have a community where people are attracted by the parks.

"We are in the business of creating memories," he said, adding that people go to Lakefront Park because its a destination with play structures, trails and picnic areas.

He said he is happy to answer any questions community members may have and can be reached at 330-734-4121. Foltz's presentation during the trustees meeting can be seen on the website www.springfieldtownship.us or on the community Channel 15.

What the 1.5 mill addition to the police levy would cost to residents:

The existing 3-mill levy which is up for renewal levy costs homeowners $25.50 per half for a $100,000 home, or $51 a year, based on the 1993 tax rate.

The additional 1.5 mills would cost that same $100,000 homeowner an additional $26.25 per half, or $52.50 a year, based on the current tax rate.

Adding the two together, would mean a homeowner would be paying $103.50 a year for a $100,000 home.

Collection on the new 1.5-mill portion of the levy would not start until January 2018 and will continue through January 2022.

What the 1.8-mill levy for Parks and Recreation will cost:

An annual cost of $63 for a $100,000 home, which figures to be $5.25 a month.