Salem Parks board to seek replacement levy

SALEM – The Salem Parks Commission agreed Wednesday to seek replacement of a current 1-mill levy on the November ballot as a means to increase money available to cover operating costs.

Commission Vice Chairman Terry Hoopes moved to send the request to city council, seconded by Chairman John Panezott who stressed the action to seek a replacement instead of a renewal was recommended due to the park district’s financial situation.

“Everything is going up,” Panezott said, noting the pool is aging and becoming more costly to operate.

He also said fuel costs are rising and there are costs for labor and equipment and maintaining that equipment.

The Salem Parks Commission oversees six parks consisting of more than 337 acres, eight ball fields, six lighted tennis courts, four basketball courts, 10 picnic pavilions, one swimming pool, the Swings & Things castle playground at Centennial Park, playground equipment at other parks, wooded walking trails, the duck pond and the band shell at Waterworth Memorial Park, boats for fishing at Salem

Reservoir and numerous restrooms and drinking fountains. The commission also operates indoor activities at the Memorial Building.

Besides Centennial and Waterworth Memorial, other parks include Mullins Park off of South Lincoln Avenue, Kelley Park off of Prospect Street, the park at the Salem Reservoir off of Gamble Road and the park located near the Teegarden Covered Bridge off of Eagleton Road.

Parks Director Steve Faber said the park district operates on money from two 1-mill levies, receives no money from the city’s general fund and rarely gets money from the city’s capital improvements fund. City voters renewed one of the two five-year levies in the fall of 2011. At the time, Faber said the two levies together generated about $318,000 per year, plus they received a small amount of money from fundraising efforts, rentals and fees.

By seeking a replacement instead of a renewal of the second 1-mill levy, which expires in 2015, he explained they’ll be able to collect the tax money based on current home values, which will increase the money raised. He admitted that means some people will pay more, especially if they’ve done a lot of improvements to their property.

The levy question will be referred to the Parks Committee of city council, then city council itself. Placing a levy on the ballot requires a two-step process, with a resolution to send the levy to the Columbiana County Auditor’s Office to certify the amount and then a second action to place the levy on the ballot.

The amount expected to be generated by a replacement and the cost to taxpayers will be determined by the county auditor’s office.

“You guys have done a fantastic job being prudent with taxpayer dollars,” Faber said to Panezott and Hoopes.

Commission member Lucille Karnofel wasn’t present for the meeting.

In other business, Faber reported they’ll be opening the pool in a couple of weeks after repairing the main water line feeding the pool and pool facilities. The work delayed getting the normal pool opening procedures completed. They had to drain the pool and refilling it takes several days since it requires 550,000 gallons to fill.

Faber said they have enough lifeguards but could always use some more. Anyone with the proper certification who’s interested can contact Faber at 330-332-5512.