Clarifying park issue
I am writing to address some misstatements and misunderstandings regarding the Russell parks levy contained in Eileen Marie’s letter to the editor last week.
I am the “passionate leader of Issue 3” that Ms. Marie refers to in her letter. As Ms. Marie correctly states, I do not own real property in Russell Township. As I have explained to her before, I rent the house that I live in, but I pay property taxes through my landlord, who uses my rent money to pay expenses, including property taxes. If taxes go up, so will my rent.
Ms. Marie apparently misunderstands the history of the Russell Township Citizens’ Park District and the history of taxation for Russell parks. Since the Russell Township Park District was created in 1984, Russell taxpayers have generously funded the township park district that is separate from the county park system. For many years, we funded the township park district with a 1-mill levy, which generated the money used to purchase and develop Russell Uplands, Modroo and other green spaces in the township. Russell residents voted to start a second, locally-controlled park district (citizens’ park district) when Russell residents disagreed with decisions being made by commissioners appointed by Geauga County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell. No taxes were added by our vote to form a second park district.
Two years ago, township park district allowed its 1-mill levy to expire, so we have been paying no taxes for either Russell park district for a year. The township park district has failed to have its budget approved by the Geauga County Budget Commission, so it cannot collect taxes. The only Russell park district that can currently collect taxes is the citizens’ park district, which has a 1-mill levy on the ballot on March 17.
I have called the citizens’ park levy “essentially a replacement levy” because, although it is technically a new levy, in essence, it shifts the 1 mill that we have been accustomed to paying for township parks from the township park district to the citizens’ park district. The township park district has enough money in the bank to cover its expenses for several years. If it ever asks voters for more money, we can say no. We will never have to pay for two township park districts. It is my fervent hope that with a new probate court judge, we can work together to merge the two park districts into one locally controlled park district.
Citizens’ parks is the only township park district in a position to pass a levy and use the proceeds to keep Russell green. Please vote Yes for Issue 3.
Russell parks for the people
Charles Butters, in his recent letter to this paper, unfortunately stated some incorrect information about Issue 3. He said the intention of the Russell Citizens’ Park District (511) is to purchase land that would be used only for passive park land that no one in Russell could access for recreation.
Good news! This is wrong!
The Citizens’ Park District plans to create trail access to land it acquires, as discussed in its February meeting. A small parking area and hiking trails would be added in early 2021. The goal is to create trails that respect existing terrain and have as little negative impact as possible, while allowing good access.
Additional goals include stewardship of watershed area and protection of part of Silver Creek, which runs through the property. This 64-acre parcel also backs up to the West Woods, extending protected property in Russell.
A Clean Ohio Greenspace Conservation Grant would help pay for a large part of the cost of this property. The Board received word that it passed the first level of approval to receive the grant. The levy would provide the remainder of the funds.
Lands under the 1545 park district and appointments to its board are currently under the control of Geauga County, not Russell Township. And unfortunately, for reasons that are still unclear to many of us, Russell park lands under the control of the 1545 board were recently leased to the Geauga Park District for a period of 15 years!
The Russell Township Citizens’ Park District (511) was created at the request of Russell citizens. Its mission is to acquire and protect land, keeping it in Russell Township control. It answers to the citizens of Russell and to the Russell Trustees. If I had given or sold land to the 1545, I would be questioning the safeguarding of my gift at this point.
Finally, and with due respect, Ms. O’Brien and Ms. Eileen Marie in their recent letters expressed concerns about being taxed by three park districts if Issue 3 passes.
Good news! This is incorrect!
Russell Citizens are not currently paying taxes to the 1545 park district. Yes on Issue 3 means your cost will be approximately $35 per $100,000 valuation of your property. For less than the cost of eight Subway foot-long combo meals for the average Russell family, we can save 64 acres of the historic Gallo property. I am willing to make sandwiches at home to Keep Russell Green! (Sorry, Subway.)
I work with the 511 board as its secretary. I was not asked to write this letter, but am compelled to respond because I understand the motivation behind Issue 3. If this 64 acres and parcels like it are developed, we can’t get them back. I remain with the 511 because its board members are people of integrity, committed to preserving the Russell way of life. They are good stewards of our land and water. We must do our part.
Protect Geauga Parks endorses and supports Matt Rambo for Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge in the March 17 Republican Primary election.
Please request a Republican Party ballot and vote for Matt Rambo.
Protect Geauga Parks is a 501(c)4 not-for-profit corporation
This communication is not authorized by any candidate, political party or campaign