Opponents Of Park Levy Use False Premise

logo for Hancock Park District

Election day is March 15th and there will be a levy replacement request from the Hancock Park District. The millage will be the same as the levy that is expiring but the park district wants to benefit from increased property values since the original levy was passed eight years ago. You might wonder who could be opposed to a tax levy for parks. There are people against the levy and they are using a false premise to justify their opposition.

There have been a couple of letters-to-the-editor in my local paper here in Findlay that give an example of an argument that is false from the get go.

The parks are asking for a replacement levy instead of a renewal levy, which allows them to receive additional funds when real estate taxes are re-evaluated.

Are you aware of this? I question why they didn’t just go after a renewal levy.

It is questionable as to how much land the park district should own in the county. The land that is given, bought, or sold to them is taken out of the county’s tax base forever.

This adds an extra burden to taxpayers. All one has to do is look at past records of real estate tax bills to see how they have grown in the past 10 years.

How do you think your real estate tax bill will look in a few more years, as the parks continue to acquire more land and need your tax dollars to maintain them?

If the parks are for everyone, then shouldn’t everyone pay for them? Please think thoroughly about the consequences before you vote.

Park Levy Tied To Real Estate Tax

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A renewable levy is more predictable because it stays the same over a period of time unless the voters decide to change it. A replacement levy replaces the effective tax rate, and is based on your property evaluation.

The taxing authority considers the revenue it needs and then collects it against your property.

I love and use the Hancock County Park system, but will not support the replacement levy, though I would have supported a renewal levy.
This levy uses the same tactics used by the Findlay politicians when they were asking for a replacement levy for income taxes about five years ago. Fortunately, the citizens saw through this and did not pass the replacement levy.

We now have a surplus in the Findlay coffers with found money and a better economy. Because you did not pass the replacement levy, the good, hardworking people in our area have more money to spend in Findlay.

The parks keep accumulating more land which takes away from the tax base of the county. Unfortunately, the taxpayer cannot always earn more money to make up for the taxes taken from them to support more and more park land.

Don’t Vote Freedoms Away

Let’s take a deeper look as to why these letter writer’s are upset:

First we need define our terms.

A Renewal Levy is a voter approved levy to extend the term and purpose of an expiring levy while considering original property valuations at the time of passage. Renewal mills have a reduction factor annually applied in order to raise the same amount of funding as in the original year of passage. If passed at the identical mills as the original levy, a renewal levy normally will not change the amount of tax you currently pay.

A Replacement Levy is a voter approved levy to extend the term and conditions of an expiring levy, but unlike renewal levies, takes the present day property valuation into consideration. Therefore, replacement levies generally benefit from the increase in value since the passage of the original “replaced” levy. If passed at the identical mills as the original levy, a replacement levy will normally increase your tax if the value of the property has risen since the original passage of the levy.

Levy Information

The park district is asking for a replacement levy because it has been eight years since the original levy was passed. They want to benefit from any increase in property values in the county. If they stuck with a renewal levy then the amount of revenue would be fixed at the level it was eight years ago.

The letter writers don’t want to see an increase in taxes but the replacement levy only means taxes COULD increase. Some might have a reevaluation on their property and could see a lower tax amount compared to eight years ago.

The rate of the levy is the same but the increase in amount collected would come from people improving their property or a higher tax level due to cuts in revenues the state shares with local governments.

The police who protect you have to be paid and if the state reduces its support property taxes can go up. Governor Kasich and the legislature, in Columbus, have gone on a local government funding cut spree the last few years putting more of a burden on local property owners.

The park district also has to cover increasing prices for things like insurance and wages. Since it doesn’t charge a fee to use the parks then revenue to cover those increases has to come from somewhere.

Finally the $3.50 additional yearly cost to someone owning a $100,000 home is far less than paying for the recent tax credits given to some businesses in the county.

The debate over additional taxes could be a valid one as long as we stick to the facts and both letter writer’s claim that park land puts more burden on tax payers is not supported by the facts.

Park advocates frequently find themselves in competition with residential developers for land in a community. The conventional wisdom which prevails among many decision-makers and taxpayers is that development is the “highest and best use” of vacant land for increasing municipal revenues. This notion is reinforced by developers who claim their projects “pay for themselves and then some.” At a council hearing debating the merits of these alternative land uses, the case made by developers is likely to resemble the following:

“The residents’ property taxes are already too high. Acquiring this land for a park would result in a tax increase since the property would be removed from the tax rolls. On the other hand, if the tract were developed, more homes would produce more tax revenues, which would result in keeping our tax rate from increasing. This community, in all good conscience, cannot afford to allow potential taxable property from being constructed.”

The myth that development reduces property taxes resides deep in the American psyche and frequently has thwarted the conservation efforts of parks and open space advocates. However, the reduction in financial aid from intergovernmental transfers and the on-going resistance of residents to tax increases has caused some elected officials to scrutinize this conventional wisdom more carefully. This has led to a growing number of communities investing in fiscal impact analyses and cost of community service (COCS) analyses.

As a result of these types of studies, parks and open space advocates are now able to respond to the developers’ case in the following terms:

“It’s not true that more development is the answer to our rising tax rate; in fact, it is often the cause of it. If the land were to be developed, it would cost the community more to provide services to the development than the community would receive in tax revenues. This deficit would have to be made up by increasing the tax rate.

Parks do not demand municipal services. They cost the community little beyond acquisition expenses but provide many economic benefits. In fact, the projected deficit created by the cost of servicing a development exceeding the taxes received from it, is often adequate In fifteen years to pay for the land’s acquisition for a park. Parks and open space keep our taxes low and it is in the best interests of the community to acquire the property for a park.”

Fiscal impact analyses are concerned with the future fiscal impact on a community of a specific proposed development, while COCS analyses relate to the current conditions based on existing budgets and real dollars. In this way, they provide hindsight from past land use decisions. The findings from these two types of analyses have challenged the historical view that more development generates more net revenue for municipalities.

COCS analyses consistently report that over a wide range of residential densities, and especially in rapidly growing communities, the public costs associated with residential development exceed the public revenues that accrue from it. The traditional belief is that developments generate sufficient tax payments to pay their way.

The people who reside in developments require services. Natural parks and open space require few public services – no roads, no schools, no sewage, no solid waste disposal, no water, and minimal fire and police protection.

To Keep the Tax Bills Down… Should a Community Build Homes or Parks

Not to mention that in the past 8 years the only additional park land added to the Hancock Park District have been land donated to the system. The revenue from the tax levy is used for operation of all the parks in the county not to buy land.

Property taxes can go up with more park land added to the system because the value of houses go up if located near a park. People want to live near parks so the market value of a house nearby will reflect that demand.

The economic benefits of a good park system far outstrips the increase in property taxes since a park doesn’t need water, sewers, schools, and only needs limited police and fire protection.

The park district should benefit from increases in property taxes especially to help pay the increased costs of one of the best park systems in the state.

A premium park system will lead to more people and businesses moving to Hancock county which will increase tax revenue and while expanding the tax base the letter writers are so concerned about.