One of the two issues on the ballot across Montgomery County, Ohio this election cycle is the Five Rivers Metroparks Levy. Despite using - and enjoying - the Metroparks, I intend to vote No on this ballot initiative. It is the intent of this post to explain my reasoning.
Before I explain my reasoning, though, let’s look at the wording on the ballot, and exactly what this Five Rivers Metroparks Levy entails.
The ballot reads:
A replacement and additional levy for the benefit of Five Rivers MetroParks for the purpose of
CONSERVING AND IMPROVING NATURAL RESOURCES, WILDLIFE HABITAT, STREAMS, AND NATURAL AREAS; PUBLIC OUTDOOR RECREATION AND HORTICULTURAL FACILITIES AND PROGRAMS; VISITOR SECURITY AND ACCESSIBILITY; NATURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS; HISTORIC PRESERVATION OF RURAL LIFESTYLES AND TRADITIONS; AND MAINTENANCE OF ALL EXISTING AND FUTURE FIVE RIVERS METROPARKS FACILITIES
at a rate not exceeding 2 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.20 for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for 10 years, commencing in 2018, first due in calendar year 2019. An existing levy of 1.8 mills, having one (1) year remaining, will be canceled and replaced upon the passage of this levy.
(There’s a six next to the wording, plus all the marketing has a six on it, so I assume this means it’s Issue 6.)
In case the ballot language is too wordy for you - it rates at a level of 18 on a Flesch–Kincaid readability test - here’s a quick translation: this levy is to replace the current 1.8 mill levy with a 2.0 mill levy - an increase of 0.2 mills.
What is a mill? It’s 1/1000 of a dollar in much the same way a cent is 1/100 of a dollar. For instance, you still see mills at gas stations when gas costs $2.99^9.
How much will this cost the average person? That number is hard to tell since this is a property tax increase and will only directly affect property owners. Property owners are taxed based on 35% of their property value - so the owner of a $100,000 property will owe $7 more per year if this levy passes:
$100,000 * 35% * 0.0002 = $7.00
That’s about 58¢ a month:
$7.00 / 12 = $0.58
Fun fact! The online literature for the levy - both the official Five Rivers Metroparks website and a pro-levy website say it will cost over double that amount. These two websites can’t seem to agree on the amount, though. The official website claims it will cost $1.24 a month more per $100,000 of property value (or $14.88 a year) while the pro-levy website says it will cost $1.48 a month more per $100,000 of property value (or $17.76 a year). I wondered if I was doing something wrong, so I found a house worth approximately $100,000 on the Montgomery County’s Auditor Webpage and looked at the “New Levies” tab. This tab shows projected levies and their associated costs, and it agreed with my math:
Levy cost increase for a $102,620 property, as reported by the Auditor’s Website
Why I’m Voting No on the Five Rivers Metroparks Levy
First and foremost, voting no on this levy does not defund Five Rivers Metroparks. The current levy still has a year left before it expires. In fact, if this levy fails, you can expect to see it on the ballot every election until it passes, although they may decide to play it less risky and have a simple renewal - and not an increase - if this ballot initiative fails.
Secondly, Montgomery County just had a sales tax increase - from 7.25% to 7.5% increase. While the Metroparks doesn’t see any of the sales tax revenue (at least to my knowledge), I don’t think it’s fair to the citizens of Montgomery County to artificially increase their cost of living and increase their cost of housing in such a short timeframe.
Thirdly, Dayton - the county seat of Montgomery County - just had an income tax increase at the end of 2016 from 2.25% to 2.5%. This affected both those who live or work in Dayton. Again, asking people for more of their money in such a short timeframe isn’t fair.
Fourthly, I’d rather see the Metroparks funded in a more volunteer fashion rather than through the coercion of taxation. I find it ironic that the pro-levy website has a link to its donation page, but the Metroparks page does not. (There is a Five Rivers Metroparks donation page, but I had to dig through the sitemap to find it.)
How You Should Vote
I’m not going to tell you how you should vote. However, I will say, if you like the Metroparks, I would highly encourage you to put your money where your mouth is and head over to the Five Rivers Metroparks donation page and make a donation.