Five Rivers MetroParks to seek replacement levy that would raise taxes

Five Rivers MetroParks Try-It Series enables outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and ability levels to try a variety of activities without investing a cent. Upcoming programs include backpacking, paddlesports and mountain biking. CONTRIBUTED
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Five Rivers MetroParks Try-It Series enables outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and ability levels to try a variety of activities without investing a cent. Upcoming programs include backpacking, paddlesports and mountain biking. CONTRIBUTED

Five Rivers MetroParks plans to place a replacement levy on the November ballot that would increase property taxes to ensure it doesn’t lose its main source of funding for years to come.

About 80 percent of the park system’s revenue is from a 1.8-mill levy that voters approved in 2009.

The 10-year levy expires at the end of 2019, but MetroParks will play it safe and try to get a replacement levy passed far ahead of that deadline.

RELATED: Survey: More Five Rivers MetroParks users OK with higher taxes

The Five Rivers MetroParks Board of Park Commissioners today voted to request the Montgomery County certify the amount a 1.8-mill levy with an additional 0.2 mills will generate.

The park system’s current levy generated about $15.5 million in tax year 2016, which is about $1.7 million less than it produced in tax year 2010, according to Montgomery County Auditor’s Office data. The data are based on a 95 percent collection rate.

The proposed replacement levy with the additional millage is projected to generate just slightly more revenue than the park’s levy did in 2010, said Alan Pippenger, the president of the Board of Park Commissioners.

“It really is a levy to allow us to keeping doing what we have and maintain the system we’ve built,” he said. “It’s a slight increase.”

The next step would be for the park board to vote to place the levy on the ballot, which is expected to take place next month.

The existing levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $52.21 per year, the auditor’s office said.

If the proposed levy is approved by voters, the cost to property owners would be an additional $1.24 more per month, per $100,000 of property value, the parks said.

Heading to the ballot in November means MetroParks would have multiple opportunities to return to the ballot if its measure was unsuccessful on the first try before its current levy expires.

“This levy is very important to us — it funds 80 percent of what we do,” said Rebecca Benná, the executive director of Five Rivers MetroParks.

MetroParks has about 3.6 million visitors annually and manages 16,000 acres of natural areas The park system also has 160 miles of trails, and more than 300,000 people attended MetroParks programs each year.

RELATED: Public input sought for MetroParks plans