ST. MARYS — Cuts in local funding have devastated many local governing bodies across Ohio.
For the Heritage Trails Park District in Auglaize County, the cuts have nearly eliminated its revenue.
“We currently are operating on about $18,000 annually,” said Heritage District Executive Director Allison Brady. “We have lost about 75 percent of our funding over the last three years.”
Brady said that if the park district had not been able to carry a surplus, they would already likely be in the red. However, that surplus will soon be depleted, so the park district is asking Auglaize County residents for a .6 mill property tax levy on the May 6 ballot. The levy would generate about $540,000 annually and would cost a taxpayer with a $100,000 home $21 annually.
The operating funds would allow the park district to immensely advance its programming and expand what it could offer to residents, Brady said. Currently, all school districts in the county except for one leave the county for environmental education. Brady said the funding would allow the park district to add educational programming both at its parks and in the schools.
Brady said some of the funds would also go toward developing new park trails and recreational opportunities for both children and adults. Portions of the funding would also be awarded to political subdivisions throughout the county to develop their own parks through grants. She said the park district wanted to expand its recreational and historical programming.
Other programs the park district planned to increase include wellness and fitness programming. Brady said the levy would also provide the park district with matching funds to pursue state and federal grants and provide stable, reliable funding.
“We would like to be able to operate and maintain our parks in a safe manner,” Brady said.
The district formed in 1996 and is a separate political subdivision of the State of Ohio. The district board is comprised of three citizens who serve three-year terms without compensation. Board members are appointed by the judge of the probate court of Auglaize County. The board meets monthly, and meetings are open to the public.