LFC Comments by Brian Massie, Concord resident:
The ever-increasing property taxes are a continual concern for LFC. We try to provide meaningful information for the Lake County voters so that they may be better informed and voting based on the facts rather than strictly on emotion. We will provide our opinion on whether we would not support a levy only if we detect any lies, or deceptions being told to the voters by the political sub-division.
We do not detect any lies or deceptions by the officials of Lake MetroParks.
The .4 mill levy will cost $14.00 per year for every $100,000 of valuation. [$35.00 x .4] The $1.17 per month figure given by the officials is accurate, but it is a marketing ploy to reduce the number the voters have in their head. We prefer telling people the annual cost per year. If your HAT % is 25%, you will need to earn an additional $56.00 per year for each $100,000 of home valuation to avoid moving closing to the 30% factor we have talked about in other articles. [$14.00 / .25]
Although they do not need the money now, they are anticipating needing the additional funding to keep up with inflation in order to maintain their level of service to the Lake County citizens.
There is an important fact that we have learned about political sub-divisions asking for taxpayer funding. Whether it is Lakeland Community College, Deepwood Center, Crime Lab, ADAMHS Board, libraries, etc., they all hate being accountable to the taxpayers, and want to extract as much money as they can to last 10 or more years before they have to ask for either a renewal or additional millage. As a result, they are all sucking the lifeblood out of the community to ensure that they have the financial resources to ensure their lucrative salaries and benefits. A local politician expressed concern to me that the Lake County public sector has grown exponentially in the last few decades.
The Lake County population has not grown dramatically in the last ten years, and it’s population is aging rapidly. We may be at a point where the public sector is growing faster than the private sector can pay for the growth. The compensation packages in the public sector now exceed, for the most part, what can be obtained by the average citizen, in the private sector. The growth in the public sector is not sustainable.
Back to Lake MetroParks .4 mill additional levy:
We sent the following email to Mr. Brassell, CFO of Lake Metroparks, and they provided a timely response below:
Lobbyists for Citizens is a 501 (c) (4) non-profit that promotes honesty, integrity, and transparency at all levels of government. Our experience over the last few years has made it abundantly clear that there is no one in the County government that is determining whether a tax levy placed on the ballot by any political sub-division is warranted.
It is, therefore, incumbent on the citizens to do their due diligence on any request for additional taxpayer funding.
We are aware of the .4 mill levy that the Lake Metroparks has placed on the November ballot. We are trying to determine if there is a need for any additional funding. Upon review of the CY 2020 financial statements that you have provided on-line, we do not get the sense of an entity struggling to pay their bills.
On page 20 of the December 31, 2020 report, the “Days Cash and Investments in Reserve”, which represents the number of days normal operations could continue with no revenue collection, showed the following:
CY 2019 252 days and for CY 2020 330 days
Your working capital increased in CY 2020 to $19,825,228 from $17,544,861 in CY 2019. That is an increase of $2,280,367 (13%)
It is a fact, your ability to remain open with no revenue collection increased in CY 2020!
We would like to know the justification for the .4 mill levy request. When you determined that you needed more money, did you factor in the automatic increase that you will receive from the inside millage due to property values increasing? As you know, the inside millage is not subject to HB 920.
In 2020, according to the Lake County Auditor’s Schedule A report attached, Lake Metroparks collected ~$611,461 from the inside millage. Your two outside levies [2012 – .8 mills & 2005 1.90 mills] collected ~$4,532,820 and ~$10,765,449. We, therefore, calculate that the additional .4 mills will bring in approximately $2,266,410 annually. [$4,,532,820 x .4 /.80]
There are many seniors in Lake County that could not live for 330 days without any revenue coming into their home. The ever-increasing property taxes and the inflation that we will continue to experience will start pricing seniors and those living on fixed incomes out of their homes that they have worked all their lives to achieve.
Lobbyists for Citizens
a 501 (c) (4) Non-Profit
Here is the timely response we received from Mr. Paul Palagyi, Executive Director, and Chris Brassell, Chief Financial Officer of Lake MetroParks:
Dear Mr Massie,
Thank you for contacting us and posing your questions. We always welcome thoughtful questions like yours from residents of Lake County about their parks.
The levy that we have put on the ballot for this fall was last increased in 2012 and it expires at the end of next year. In 2012 we promised to use this funding to make up for cuts in state support and to increase public access to park properties. We also promised not to come back to our residents with another increase during the life of that levy. We kept those promises. We have increased public access to the parks by opening properties that were previously closed, creating new parking lots and trails and by increasing the hours of operation so that the parks are open to the public longer. Since 2012 we have seen a dramatic increase in visitation which particularly spiked during the pandemic. Last year over 690,000 more visitors used their parks than 2019 and park visitation this year continues to far outpace the 2019 levels.
Your analysis of our current funding is accurate, we are not in the “red” now but we will be in the next few years. By being responsible with public funding over the past ten years we have been able to stretch the ten year levy amount out so that we are not in the red today going into the last year of the 0.8 mill levy, but we cannot stretch that amount for another ten years. We do have cash on hand at this time but given the ten year window in front of us, that reserve will not allow us to continue to operate as we currently are for another ten years without a small increase. [Emphasis added by LFC]
We chose to put this increase on the ballot along with the renewal of the 0.8 mill levy instead of only doing a renewal now and asking for a third, new levy when we get close to going into the red. By doing so, we maintain two park levies instead of creating a third. We feel the most appropriate step is to put this small increase on the ballot now and ask Lake County voters what they want their parks to be over the next ten years. The 0.4 mill increase will cost an additional $1.17 per month on $100,000 worth of property. That small increase is very close to the rate of inflation and will enable Lake Metroparks to continue to provide the parks and programs that Lake County residents have come to expect from their parks. As we did in 2012, we are promising that with this small increase we will not come back for any additional increases for the next ten years.
With regard to the 0.1 mill of inside millage, the simple answer is yes, we took that funding into account when planning out the next ten years. Based on the County Auditor’s annual estimates of inside millage, over the past ten years there has been little change in what they anticipated we would collect. The actual amount the parks received in inside millage over the past three years was:
CY 2019 $629,619,
CY 2020 $635,501
CY 2021 $642,323.
As you can see, this is a relatively small increase to our budget from the increasing inside millage.
We hope this information is helpful and again, we appreciate your thoughtful questions.
Paul Palagyi, Executive Director
Chris Brassell, Chief Financial Officer