Mill Creek MetroParks board approves 2018 budget

The 2018 Mill Creek MetroParks budget the park board approved this week was made with operational efficiency in mind, MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young said.

“For 2018, our main priority is making sure that the MetroParks’ operating budget reflects our commitment to being efficient stewards of taxpayer dollars, and I think this budget does exactly that,” he said.

The board approved a budget featuring just under $11.8 million in general-fund appropriations. Last year, the budget included $12.4 million in general-fund appropriations.

Total appropriations for this year, including just under $4.7 million from the park’s replacement reserve fund and $10,000 from a law-enforcement assistance fund, are $16.4 million.

Also reduced in this year’s budget are employee wages and salaries. The MetroParks budgeted about $6 million for wages and salaries this year, compared with about $6.3 million in the 2016 budget and $6.2 million in the 2017 budget.

“Salaries and wages were reduced by 3 percent as compared to 2017. That’s even after a two percent board-approved increase for all employees,” Young said, referring to raises granted in 2016.

Young said that was achieved by measures such as keeping a closer eye on employees’ hours.

He said the MetroParks also sought to trim spending in other areas, such as reducing the vehicle fleet from more than 80 in 2015 to about 63 today.

“We are continuing to evaluate everything from our fleet to our equipment to salaries and wages,” he said.

On the revenue side, the 2018 general-fund budget is similar to last year’s, with just under $7.8 million in general property tax revenue and total general-fund revenue of just under $10.3 million, not taking into account carry-over funds.

Another focus of the 2018 budget is capital improvements. An additional 0.25-mill for capital improvements, which the park began receiving last year after voters approved it in 2015, brings in slightly more than $1 million per year for the 15-year levy cycle. The park has pledged to invest $29 million in capital improvements over that period.

“We’re looking to spend nearly $5.8 million on capital improvements [this year],” Young said, noting a significant portion of that amount will be funded by third-party dollars such as grants and donations.

For example, on the MetroParks’ project list this year is right-of-way acquisition, design and engineering, and construction of the final phase of the MetroParks Bikeway. Much of that project is covered by grant money, including 80 percent of the estimated $3.5 million construction cost.

Also budgeted this year are annual improvements such as parking lot and trail maintenance; completion of a project to restore the wheel at Lanterman’s Mill; and improvements at numerous sites including the Lake Newport boat launch, Fellows Riverside Gardens, the north golf course, Scholl and Wick recreation areas, Mill Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and others.

“We have a lot of projects that should, and hopefully will, provide park visitors with the level of excitement we’ve been talking about for some time now,” Young said.

“We’re pleased with where we’re headed,” he added. “It’s an exciting time for the MetroParks.”

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