A budget of slightly less than $13.2 million for the operation of the Toledo Area Metroparks was approved Tuesday by the system's board of commissioners.
The budget is slightly more than the total expenses of about $12.9 million last year.
About $500,000 more has been budgeted for salaries this year over the preceding year, reflecting a pay increase for employees and the hiring of four new park rangers.
The total of pay and benefits is about $5.8 million for the year. There are 48 members of the Metropark Employees Union. The union received a 3.7 percent raise about a month ago; members are scheduled to receive 4 percent raises in 2002 and 2003.
Art Weber, a spokesman for the parks system, said it is anticipated some employees will retire this year, so the total amount budgeted for salaries and benefits may not be spent.
A new expense this year will be $100,000 to begin a project to connect by computer all of the parks for better communication. An additional $100,000 will be used to complete the project next year.
The district will hire two people, one of them on a part-time basis, to coordinate volunteer efforts at the parks.
Jim Spengler, Metroparks director, said that he intended to establish multicultural internships in the naturalist department in an effort to encourage minorities who may be interested in the field of natural resources.