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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2012

Commentary

Parks levy is a waste of money

BY TOM WANIEWSKI

Issue 5 asks Toledo taxpayers whether they want to increase their property taxes for 10 years to spend more money on city parks and recreation programs. Voters should save their money and reject this wasteful new burden on homeowners, for three main reasons:

It’s the wrong tax. Senior citizens who aren’t playing softball or getting together with the neighbors for a quick game of hoops will have to pay for something they’ll likely never use.

This levy would raise about $3 million a year. The city already spends that amount annually on parks, recreation, and forestry. That includes more than a half-million dollars for park improvements, much of it to replace or repair vandalized equipment. Why reward vandals with more money?

Revenue from this tax would have to be spent on parks and recreation, but that doesn’t mean that the money now budgeted for these purposes in the city’s general fund wouldn’t then be wasted on something else. It would become a zero-sum shell game.

This city government already has a record of shuffling money. Last August, for example, we found an extra $60,000 for an inner-city basketball and soccer league.

It’s the wrong reason. Toledo already has plenty of park activities and recreation programs. They are run successfully by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo, the Y, the National Youth Sports Program, the Catholic Youth Organization, Toledo Public Schools, the Metroparks, and a variety of summer camps.

Leaders of these organizations have said, correctly, that recreation is good for the city. Such statements should not be portrayed as ringing endorsements of taking more of your money.

The city should not be creating recreational programs; let the experts do that. We should provide the infrastructure that supports programs, without asking property owners for more tax revenue.

An outside consultant recently listed 24 options for Toledo to raise money for parks and recreation. Only four had anything to do with taxes. Why not focus on the other suggestions, such as seeking grants and business sponsorships?

It’s the wrong time. Property values in Toledo have suffered tremendously in the past three years. Constituents tell me almost every day that they are finding it harder to pay their city water bills. We shouldn’t make it even more expensive for people to stay in their homes by imposing a new property tax.

Toledo has more than 140 parks. Levy proponents talk about adding five large parks to that total, even as Toledo Public Schools is demolishing buildings, thus creating more open space.

Our city has more urgent needs. Roads must be paved. More police officers are required on city streets. When we do these things, maybe we can look at new parks.

The Toledo parks levy is the wrong tax for the wrong reason at the wrong time. That’s three strikes, and city voters should call Issue 5 out.

Tom Waniewski represents District 5 on Toledo City Council.



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