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0.8 MILLS

Olander Parks levy headed for November ballot

System missed filing last year

Sylvania-area voters will decide on a Olander Parks System levy in November, an issue that was supposed to be on last year’s ballot.

Olander Parks System officials last year failed to file the required paperwork to place a proposed 0.8-mill levy on the November, 2016, ballot. That levy was to generate $1.093 million a year and replace a 0.5-mill levy, which expired in December, 2016.

Olander’s board members on Wednesday voted to send a resolution to the Lucas County Auditor to start the process of getting that same proposal in the hands of voters. They’re asking for the same amount — 0.8 mills — for a five-year period.

Olander-1

Last fall's levy would have generated $1.093 million a year for the Olander Park System.

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“This particular resolution asks the auditor to certify the funds so that we have an idea of what might be the revenues,” Executive Director Erika Buri said.

Board Chairman Harold McElmurry said he is comfortable with that amount and believes the park system has been responsible in cutting costs for 2017.

“I think we realize that that’s the amount we needed. We don’t need any more, and we don’t need any less,” Mr. McElmurry said. “I think we’re trying to be as forthright as we can to the community, and I think we have pretty good community support.”

Without a 2016 levy, parks officials had to tighten their budget. Two full-time and two part-time employees were laid off, and the salaries of the remaining four employees were reduced, cutting money spent on wages in half.

Olander’s advertising budget also was slashed, from $40,000 to $3,000. The programming budget was cut from $30,000 to $10,000, and money spent on training and travel was reduced from $15,000 to $500.

Parks commissioner John Zeitler said in addition to the cuts they’ve had to use their annual $278,000 in carryover funds to make ends meet, and next year the parks won’t be able to function without a levy.

“If people say, ‘You seem to be surviving. You’ve cut back, but you’re surviving.’ Well, that’s because we’re using up all our carryover,” Mr. Zeitler said. “Our savings account at the end of the year will be zero.”

Commissioners on Wednesday also approved a draft master plan, completed by landscape architects from The Collaborative, Inc. last year but put on hold after the levy was left off the 2016 ballot.

The plan outlines and budgets potential improvements to Olander, Sylvan Prairie, Fossil, and Whetstone parks, including expanding trails, adding playgrounds, and improving areas of native vegetation.

Ms. Buri emphasized the plan serves solely as a road map for the future and said no money will be spent on improvements without board approval.

Contact Sarah Elms at: selms@theblade.com or 419-724-6103 or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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