The Suburbanite
  • Optimism over Stark Parks tax

  • The Stark County Park District director was cautiously optimistic that a renewal levy and additional levy would pass in Tuesday’s election. Votes were still being counted early Wednesday morning.

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  • A combination Stark County Park District levy — part renewal and part additional — was on its way to passage early Wednesday morning, according to partial voting results.
    The single ballot issue included the replacement of an existing 0.5-mill park system levy as well as adding another 0.5 mill.
    As of 1 a.m. Wednesday, it was passing by nearly 4,000 votes — 51 percent to 49 percent, according to unofficial results from the Stark County Board of Elections. That doesn’t include paper ballots cast on Tuesday, some absentee ballots and provisional ballots
    The existing levy, a five-year tax that expires next year, costs the owner of a $100,000 home, $15.31 a year. The new levy would run for eight years. At current rates, it would cost the owner of that same house $30.63 a year.
    The $7.2 million in revenue would be used for operating and maintaining existing park areas and for acquiring more.
    Stark County Park District Director Bob Fonte expressed cautious optimism over the incomplete results.
    “I think people are beginning to realize how important it is for a quality of life,” he said of the park system.
    Fonte said the new levy will help offset the state’s phase out of tangible personal property tax and cuts in state and federal funding.
    The park district includes more than 80 miles of walking and biking trails, lakes ponds and reservoirs and 13 parks and an array of programs as well as a wildlife rehabilitation center.
    Passing the levies is vital to keeping the park system open, Fonte said. Without passage, $500,000 would have to be cut from the operating budget in 2013, he said.
    Approval allows the park district to leverage $600,000 in levy revenue to access $3 million in grants for projects, including a pedestrian tunnel underneath Route 43 and north of Easton Street in the North Canton and Plain Township area, Fonte said.
    Passing a levy is extra challenging when the economy is struggling, Fonte said. “It gets harder every year because of the demands on everybody’s (daily) living expenses,” he said.
    But the public values the park system, Fonte said.
    “People are discovering parts of the county that they didn’t know existed,” he said.

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