How much will my taxes increase?
To estimate your tax increase, simply multiply your property value times 0.0004. If your home is worth $200,000, then your Parks Tax will be $80 annually. That’s only $7.00 per month or $0.29 a day for access to parks and recreation locally.
But imagine this: On a $200,000 home, you’ll pay $80 a year or $800 over 10 years in additional taxes. Conservatively speaking, the addition of Parks and Recreation could easily at $8,000 to your home value. That is a tenfold return over investment and you get to use the parks in the meantime.
How will Parks affect Property Values?
Realtors and Developers agree that Parks and Recreation Services will increase property values. Some of the most highly valued homes in the Cleveland Community are immediately adjacent to the existing GCAA ballfields, such as Broadmoor, McLemore, and Wellesley. The Wellesley development, which is under construction, believes that being close to parks increase their value and desirability. Modern lighting techniques allow for less spillover of light onto adjacent properties. This should ease worries that the values for property located near to the park might drop.
Who will be in the new Tax District?
The new district will encompass citizens and properties within the existing boundaries of the Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department (McLemore Fire District). The population of the District is estimated at 27,000 residents.
Won’t people outside Cleveland use our parks too, even though they do not pay the tax?
Very likely, but for decades Cleveland residents have used parks in Clayton, Garner, Smithfield, and Raleigh for which we paid no taxes. Additionally, our Parks and Recreation Service District will pave the way for other unincorporated areas of Johnston County such as McGees Crossroads and Flowers Plantation to organize their own Parks and Recreation Services. It is therefore realistic that park usage by non-residents would be offset by other communities’ develoment.
What will happen to GCAA and Pop Warner?
The GCAA and Pop Warner organizations provide opportunities for thousands of our youth in the Cleveland Community to participate in organized sports activities. If approved, the new Parks and Recreation Tax District will work closely with and support these organizations by providing additional athletic fields and facilities. GCAA and Pop Warner will continue to provide youth sports programs while the Parks and Recreation organization will focus on acquiring land, building facilities, and providing resources for ongoing maintenance of both new and existing facilities.
Who runs the Parks and Recreation Department?
It will work essentially like the Fire Department, with the same levels of oversight and accountability. If the Commissioners approve a recreation tax district as proposed under G.S. 153A-302, one of the requirements of this legislation is for the Commissioners to provide “A plan for providing the services to the district”. Since the Fire District Tax was authorized under this same legislation, let’s look at that plan to understand how the County might provide recreation services. Johnston County Government enters into an annual contract with The Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department (a non-profit corporation) to provide fire protection services in the McLemore Fire District. The tax monies collected in the District are paid to the Cleveland Fire Department based on that contract and their annual needs. A Fire District Tax Board, made up of McLemore Fire District citizens appointed by the County Commissioners, reviews the Fire Department annual budget and recommends to the County Commissioners the rate of tax needed to operate the Fire Department effectively. Annually, the County Commissioners then set the rate they deem appropriate. It is reasonable to assume the County Commissioners would look to set up a similar arrangement for the recreation tax district should one be approved.
To clarify, the Cleveland Community Parks and Recreation Association, Inc (CCP&RA), a 501(c)(3) is a local non-profit organized to promote a parks and recreation service district for Cleveland Community and purchase the 82-acre potential park land. It has a volunteer Board of Directors, who are prohibited from collecting a salary by their bylaws. Those directors are: Denton Lee, Scott Janes (President of Cleveland Pop Warner), Michael Knott (President of GCAA), Linwood Jones (Linwood Jones Athletic Park), and Don Wells. These persons were chosen because they ardently support Cleveland Community Parks and Recreation and agreed to be personally liable for a $1.6 million loan needed to buy the 82-acre land if and until this Tax District could be created.
Though they could be appointed annually by the Commissioners, the CCP&RA does not currently nor is guaranteed to provide the Parks and Recreation services in the future.
TAX REVENUE QUESTIONS:
Is there a way to get the county to fund a county park?
Because Local Towns already tax their citizens for Parks and Recreation, any countywide tax for Parks and Recreation would be a double-tax for these residents, making this proposal the only option for unincorporated areas. Johnston County is one of only 19 counties in NC that does not have a county parks and recreation department. By default, Johnston County Government has delegated the responsibility for park and recreation funding to its incorporated municipalities who have chosen to have parks and recreation departments. Incorporated towns around us such as Smithfield, Clayton, Four Oaks, etc. allocate a portion of their municipal tax to acquire, develop, and maintain parks and recreation within their town. As an example, Clayton estimates that approximately 7.5 cents of their municipal tax goes to support parks and recreation. Because these towns have already self-taxed to support parks, any county-wide increase in taxes to provide recreation funding for unincorporated areas would be a double tax on these municipal residents. This makes it impractical for Cleveland (or any other unincorporated area in Jo Co) to look to the County for help. If we want parks in our community, it will be up to us to self-fund the cost. The County is not going to rescue us.
Why is the cost not being covered by bonds issued to cover the estimated cost of this proposal and each new proposal with the bonds voted on by the taxpayers? (i.e. bonds used rather than an open-ended tax through a tax district)
Johnston County has sold recreation bonds in the past where the bond money was used throughout the County for recreation improvements. The Cleveland Community would certainly be thankful if Commissioners would approve another bond issue. However, there hasn’t been a new recreation bond in over 10 years, and it would be impractical to think that the community could make ongoing maintenance and improvements without a recurring revenue stream.
Will the recreation tax ever decrease?
Yes it is possible. The County sets the county annually based on taxable property and needs (just like the fire tax rate).
That is possible. If the tax district is approved by the County Commissioners, the Commissioners would set the tax rate each year based on their understanding of the current needs of the district. This is exactly how the Fire District Tax works as well. It is an annual appropriation. In speaking with a member of the McLemore Fire Tax Board, the fire tax rate has decreased in the past, and it is possible it could decrease again this year after revaluation is complete. The tax rate is based on the cumulative value of real property within the district. Growth has its benefits and the McLemore Fire District is growing rapidly. As that cumulative value increases, the tax rate can be decreased, which relaxes the burden on individual taxpayers and spreads the cost to new taxpayers. In other fire districts in Johnston County, growth is not occurring and tax rates are as high as 12 cents per $100 and could increase to support the fixed costs that fire departments incur. We should expect similar treatment for a recreation tax if one is approved.
Will farmers be overwhelmed by the additional tax?
No. In fact, the largest farmers in McLemore Fire District overwhelmingly support the Parks and Recreation Proposal. This is because Agricultural Land is taxed differently than residential and business commercial property. For a longtime, Farmers effectively pay a substantially reduced tax rate in order to subsidize the industry.
The current statement is that 100% of taxes collected will go towards the park and other efforts. Does this include salaries for members of the association? What will prevent the funds from being diverted to other items considered essential by the association/governing board?
Remember, the Parks and Recreation would be provided with all the same accountability and oversight as the Cleveland Fire Services. If the County Commissioners and Taxpayers felt those responsible for providing these services become delinquent, they could replace them. The non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation “Cleveland Community Parks and Recreation Association, Inc.” has a board of directors made up of local citizens who do not accept a salary and are prohibited to do so by their by-laws. It is reasonable to expect that the organization would hire a salaried parks and recreation director to manage the day-to-day operation if the tax is approved. The desired plan is that the parks and recreation organization will buy, build, and maintain parks and recreation facilities in the community, and GCAA and Pop Warner will continue to run their youth programs with volunteers.
How long will the tax last?
It’s important to remember this about more than one park. The reality is that if park land is purchased or donated, if parks and recreation fields are developed, if playgrounds and walking trails are built, if additional gymnasiums are constructed, and if the population continues to grow, the tax dollars contributed to parks and recreation will be needed in perpetuity to maintain these facilities and acquire and build new ones to keep up with growth.
How much tax revenue is expected?
A 0.04% property tax on 2018-2019 tax values would yield about $880,000 per year. The value of taxable properties in the McLemore Fire District in the 2018-2019 fiscal year was about $2.2 Billion. A one cent tax per $100 of property value would yield about $220,000 per year. The value after revaluation is not yet known. The proposed “Central Park” property that contains 82 acres can be purchased for $1.6 million. In order to purchase this property and begin to develop it, the Parks and Recreation Association is recommending a 4 cent tax rate based on 2018-2019 tax values, which would yield about $880,000 per year. This amount can then be leveraged to both purchase the property and begin making the improvements taxpayers expect in the very first years of taxation.
QUESTIONS ABOUT OTHER FUNDING:
Will this work in conjunction with commercial support in the form of donations?
The Parks and Recreation Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that is able to accept support from contributions, and would likely solicit corporate and individual support much like our Fire Department does. Revenue from donations and tax revenue can be used as matching dollars for available grants.
What revenue, if any, will be generated by the new park(s)?
It is possible Recreation Facilities could generate some revenue. If Cleveland Community citizens support the recreation tax, it will be used to acquire, develop, and maintain parks right here in our community. The goal is for these parks to be public, belonging to the citizens of the Cleveland Community. Organizations within the Community, like GCAA and Pop Warner that have organized programs for youth sports, will not be charged for the use of the facilities. In a similar manner, it is expected that passive facilities such as playgrounds, walking trails, and open space to run and play will also be part of our park facility and will be free and open to the public. Regarding the possible generation of revenue from the park, some fields or facilities could be rented to outside groups which might generate some revenue. However, because our community population has completely outgrown existing recreational space, it is not likely we would have excess capacity anytime in the near future. Many parks, like Lake Wheeler and White Deer Park have shelter facilities that can be rented to churches and other groups for an outing. If these types of facilities are a part of our park, they could generate some rental revenue. Likewise, Athletic Centers such as the Clayton Recreation Center on Amelia Church Rd or the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatic Center in Smithfield charge non-residents to use the facilities.
What was the cost of the 82 acres?
Net cost $1.6 million. The property was appraised at $1.9 million 2 years ago. For perspective, the city of Garner just paid $2.4 million for 72 acres of park land.
I thought a community landowner gave land to the County?
Great question! It is true that a 12-acre tract of land was offered to the County Commissioners in 2017 as a gift IF the Commissioners would create a park on this land. However, the County Commissioners refused to accept the gift for a community park because there were no County funds available to build a park on the land. Following that disappointment, a group of community citizens then formed a non-profit corporation called the Cleveland Community Parks & Recreation Association, Inc. (CCP&RA), met with the landowners, and agreed to purchase the entire tract (82 acres which includes the 12 acre gift) for a future park. This organization has borrowed the funds to purchase the property in hopes that it can become public open space and a future “central park” for the community. It will be up to the citizens of Cleveland and the County Commissioners whether this becomes a reality. IF the community and the County Commissioners support a Cleveland Area Parks & Recreation Tax District, this tax will become the recurring revenue needed to complete the purchase of the land, develop the land for playgrounds and walking trails and recreation, and maintain the park in perpetuity. If the tax is not approved, the CCP&RA will then be forced to sell the land to pay off the debt. If that happens the land would likely end up in the hands of a developer who would build more houses and create more stress on the existing youth recreation facilities in the community. The hope for a “central park” in the community will remain just a dream if the community does not support the funding necessary to buy, build, and maintain parks. The County Commissioners are not going to rescue us if we are not willing to self-fund our own parks.
What is the estimated cost of the proposed park and services?
The total cost is unknown because the final plan for Central Park and a Park Master Plan have not been finalized in order to hear from citizens. This will depend on the facilities that are built. A park proposed in Apex, similar to the one sketched on the 82-acres in Cleveland, had an estimated cost of about $40 million. The large building proposed on the property is a community building with gyms and an indoor competition pool. This facility alone would cost around $15 million. It would take many years at the proposed tax rate, but many improvements and open space could be built in the short term for the community to begin to enjoy. Recurring revenue can be leveraged to go facilities more rapidly and seek out matching grants. Recurring revenue would give the Community the opportunity to tap into low interest government programs like Rural Development loans. A growing community like Cleveland can also attract matching corporate donations and park-friendly foundations. Most of these types of resources require commitment (matching funds) from the local community, and the tax district would give us that.
What additional parks/recreational services are planned for the Cleveland area in addition to the park?
It should be the dream of all citizens that additional parks throughout the community can be developed. Land donations can be accepted by our non-profit organization, and with the recurring tax, we would have resources to develop parks on those properties. In the future, this recurring tax would create the possibility of greenways along waterways, playgrounds, aquatic centers, senior centers, a completely handicap accessible park such as the Miracle Park in Smithfield, and more.
What enhancements to the roads and other infrastructure are planned to deal with traffic?
These studies have not been done. It is not practical to spend money on engineering studies, storm water plans, grading plans, and road plans with the County, State, and DOT unless it is certain that this property can become a park and there is recurring revenue that can be used to develop the property. If the tax district is approved, these would be the first expenses incurred along with the purchase of the property. However, the County and DOT have existing guidelines to insure proper research and improvement are performed.
I don’t have young children playing sports, why should I pay for something I will never use?
Thankfully this is about more than ballfields and playgrounds; this is about providing recreation space for all citizens of Cleveland. Our senior adults need safe, level, lit places to walk and exercise. Our pet owners need places to socialize pets and support one another. Our adults need areas to enjoy nature’s beauty. Our runners and cyclists need trails free from the threat of traffic. Our families and churches need picnic shelters to gather and celebrate. Our residents need places to build community across neighborhoods, economic status, and race. Our Community Civic Organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Home Schoolers, and American Red Cross need Community Space to host their invaluable services. Our county needs more polling locations.