The Nov. 4, 2014 ballot will include a proposal to renew a 10-year countywide parks and recreation operations millage. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval on July 9, 2014 to put the request on the ballot.
The action on July 9 was for an amended version, compared to a resolution given initial approval on May 21, 2014. That’s because some state-mandated information had inadvertently been left off the proposed ballot language in the original resolution, according to a staff memo. [.pdf of staff memo]
The operations millage was first authorized by voters in November 1976 at 0.25 mills for a 10-year period and has been renewed three times. Because of the state’s Headlee amendment, the rate that’s actually levied has been rolled back and is now 0.2352 mills. The current millage expires in December 2016.
If renewed again, it would generate an estimated $3.4 million annually – or about half of the parks & rec annual operating expenses. Other revenue sources are admission/gate/membership fees charged seasonally at facilities including the Meri Lou Murray recreation center, the water/spray parks, and the Pierce Lake golf course. Funding is also received from state and federal grants as well as private donations.
The county parks system receives most of its funding from two countywide millages. In addition to the operations millage, another millage pays for capital improvements and park development. It was also originally levied at 0.25 mills, but has been rolled back to 0.2367 mills.
In addition, a third millage – levied at 0.25 mills but rolled back to 0.2409 mills – funds natural areas preservation, bringing in about $3 million annually. It was first approved by voters in 2000, and renewed for another 10 years in 2010.
The county’s parks & recreation department is overseen by a separate entity – the parks & recreation commission – whose members are appointed by the county board. The county board has the authority to put a parks millage proposal on the ballot, but does not authorize expenditure of the funds. That responsibility rests with the parks & recreation commission. The group meets monthly at the parks & recreation office at County Farm Park, and its meetings are open to the public.
This brief was filed from the county administration building at 220 N. Main. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]