Thursday, July 10, 2003

Parks levy facing voters

By Jeremy W. Steele
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Residents will get a chance to vote on a proposed levy that could help this growing township add to its parks system.

Advocates of the 1.95-mill levy say it could help West Chester - which is running out of money for major park upgrades - save some of the green space it has left.

"We have a window of time right now within these next few years when we can save a lot of farms," said Trustee Catherine Stoker, who voted with Trustee Dave Tacosik on Tuesday to place the levy on the November ballot.

"A lot of people are driving by woods and pastures and have no idea bulldozers are going to be there in 12 months."

Trustee Jose Alvarez voted against the measure.

If approved, the levy would generate $2.5 million to $3 million a year toward $80 million in park improvements.

It would cost the owner of a $150,000 home about $90 per year.

The levy was recommended by a 12-member park committee formed by the trustees to examine the issue.

Although the township has received many grants for parks improvements, most require matching funding from the township.

And township officials say the economic downturn could deplete the money they have for such uses.

Alvarez, who said he didn't want to be viewed as endorsing the tax by voting to place it on the ballot, said the township has already spent a lot of money on its parks system.

He questioned whether the tax would damage future efforts to pass levies for emergency services or other township needs.

"We're basically making an $80 million program here," Alvarez said.

In the spring, Lakota Local Schools will ask voters for new school construction and operating money.

A 100-acre farm would cost the township about $3 million to use for a park, but would require the construction of a new, $10 million elementary school if it were turned into a housing development.

The township does not have the money in its budget to make such a purchase without the parks levy, Stoker said.


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