By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
For 16 years, the levy supporting parks and recreation in Bowling Green has been static. Meanwhile, the park facilities and programs have been anything but.
So Tuesday evening, the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board approved a request to put a new, higher millage levy on the fall ballot. The park and recreation department has been operating with a 1.4-mill levy, which generated $638,500 annually for 16 years. The new levy would be 2 mills for five years, bringing in $915,000 annually.
The reason for the increase is simple, according to the levy committee which recommended the millage. The department has continued to expand its facilities and programs to meet the needs of its citizens. “And the public expects this quality to be maintained,” said Jeff Crawford, a member of the park board and levy committee.
“It’s overdue,” said board member Cheryl Windisch, noting that costs for everything else have increased in that 16-year period.
Park board president Kent Strange said it was a “great feat” for the department to get by on the same millage for 16 years while offering quality services. “This will go a long way to continuing with that.”
The levy recommendation will now go to city council for approval to be put on the November ballot.
Park and recreation levies in Bowling Green traditionally enjoy at passage rate of about 60 percent at the polls, according to Kristin Otley, director of the city’s park and recreation department. She is hoping for similar results this time around.
“The need is real and we feel we can communicate the need to folks,” Otley said.
The additional millage will not be much of a difference to individual landowners in the city, but it will add up to a substantial amount for the parks and recreation programs, she said.
“It’s obviously critically important to us,” she said, noting the care that is taken to spend the money wisely. “We are mindful of the tax dollars we get.”
Much has changed with the city park and recreation services since the existing levy went into effect 16 years ago. Otley listed additions like the community center, Simpson Building and garden park, the skate park, new acreage at Ridge Park, the soccer fields on Dunbridge Road, and the new aquatic complex.
Until recently, the levy accounted for 33 percent of the park and recreation budget. Last year, the levy dollars made up 30 percent of the budget, with more money coming in from such sources as fees, rental costs, grants, donations and the general fund.
Mayor Dick Edwards voiced his support for the levy process Tuesday evening.
“This is a big step forward,” he said. “This is a critically important issue.”
Edwards cautioned that getting the levy past city council is just the first step.
“The heavy lifting has only started,” he said.
If the levy fails to pass, the park and recreation department would have to make cuts, since the existing park levy expires at the end of this year.
“We would be in trouble,” Otley said.
The levy committee is made up of Margaret Tucker, Jodi and Dave Anderson, Clif Boutelle, Brian Bushong, Bob Callecod, Pat and Lisa Carney, Lisa Cesarini, Jeff Crawford, Debbie Dorn, Nadine Edwards, Becca Ferguson, Joyce Kepke, Eric Myers, Andy Newlove, Sandy Rowland, Barbara Ruland, Kent Strange, Melanie Stretchbery, Jenny Swope and Susan Winters.