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Licking Park District must do ‘more with less’

GRANVILLE – Licking Park District has already begun its campaign to pass a May levy, according to Director Russ Edgington.

He said the district plans to shut down its parks this winter and lay-off employees at least temporarily in the wake of voters rejecting a 0.2 mill five-year levy in November and learning that next year Licking County can only provide the district a percentage of the $260,000 in operational funding that it provided the district this year – far less than the $386,000 budget Edgington proposed to the county commissioners as a bare-minimum operating budget for 2011.

“The campaigning has already started,” said Edgington, who’s been speaking with Pataskala representatives and explaining the district’s importance to Western Licking County.

Edgington and the Licking Park District Commissioners concluded that Western Licking County residents consider themselves more part of Franklin County than Licking and they are less likely to support a Licking County levy. Official results show the Nov. 2 levy fell 30,619 votes against to 28,881 in favor. Edgington said the district must tout its benefits to places like Pataskala and Johnstown to pass a May levy. Should the May levy be approved, he said the district could continue to operate its parks and maintain its staff.

Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb previously explained that the park district is an unmandated expense for the county, meaning that the county is not required to contribute money to the district like other county departments such as the Licking County Sheriff’s Office, hence the need for the May levy. The county is working to cut its overall expenses by wide margins. The district had a $200,000 carry over in its 2010 budget, which is helping it operate at full capacity this year, but there is no significant carry over for next year.

“(The park district) will be treated fairly in the budget, but not extravagantly,” said Bubb Wednesday. He predicted the Licking Parks District would receive “in the neighborhood” of $247,000, but it’ll be two or three weeks until it’s budgeted. “The commissioners don’t want to pin themselves to an amount,” said Bubb.

Regardless of what’s bud geted, he said the parks district must learn to do “more with less” and find new ways to raise more money through private functions and revenue-generating events, and utilize volunteer help more effectively.

Bubb and Edgington said the Licking Park District Board of Commissioners would add two more members, expanding from a three to a five-member board. Bubb said he hopes the new members, once they are chosen, will bring some new ideas to the table as far as campaigning and methods to raise revenue.

Bubb believes the November levy would’ve succeeded with a stronger campaign, but he acknowledged that Edgington – who’s stated that his own campaigning skills could be better – shouldered much of the campaign’s responsibility while also managing the parks. Bubb said the park district’s supporters need to help the district organize a campaign to pass its May levy.

“Just because you run the parks doesn’t mean you’re a political guru,” said Bubb. “Let Russ (Edgington) run the parks.”

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