County Parks Department eyes millage in November election

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By Chris Gray
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Since 2009, the Ingham County Parks department has had less money appropriated toward its general fund every year. Funding for the 2012 fiscal year was $1.22 million which is 62% of the amount appropriated in 2009.

Since 2009, the Ingham County Parks department has had less money appropriated toward its general fund every year. Funding for the 2012 fiscal year was $1.22 million which is 62% of the amount appropriated in 2009.

The Ingham County Parks Department is eyeing a potential millage to help increase its budget to make up for shortfalls in past years and improve park services across the county. The millage is still in the early stages of planning but could be on the ballot for Nov 4.

For the millage proposal to make it to the ballot, it must first be approved by the County Services Committee. The proposal has been a topic of discussion at recent meetings and will continue to be. Once the County Services Committee has decided on language for the millage, it will move on to the county commissioners. The 14 commissioners have the final say on whether the millage should proceed to voters.

Because the millage is still in planning, there is no definite amount or timeframe yet. According to Willis Bennett, director of the Ingham County Parks Department, the amount could be equal or less than a previous millage proposal of 0.5 mills.

If passed at 0.5 mills, the millage would cost $50 for a homeowner of a house with a market value of $200,000, raising millions of dollars for the parks department. The length of the millage has not been decided. 

“As of now, zero things are in concrete,” Bennett said. “Everything is still up in the air.”

Potential projects with the money include new park activities, upgraded park maintenance and the expansion of county trails.

“There are a million different possibilities,” Bennett said.

Steven Gaffney, a resident of Okemos, said he is open to the idea of a new millage for the parks. The 31-year-old is a frequent user of the bike trails around the county and would like to see them expanded.

“A small millage increase would not be the death of me,” Gaffney said. “By keeping up with the parks, you are keeping up on the environment and personal fitness.”

Like most tax increases, this millage is sure to face some opposition. Michelle Dewrath, a resident of Lansing, said she cannot support another tax increase.

“Times have been rough for everyone, myself included,” Dewrath said. “I just cannot see myself supporting higher taxes, regardless of where it goes”

With election season still eight months away, there is plenty of time for the exact details of this millage to be worked out. Until then, Gaffney said, he still plans on riding the trails of Ingham County.

“Millage or no millage, we have some of the best parks in Michigan,” Gaffney said. “But it would be pretty cool to have some extended trails to explore.”

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