Recent statements regarding the Salem Parks Department's budget could be jeopardizing the chances of passing a parks levy in the May 4 primary.
Salem City Auditor Jim Armeni recently said the parks department could absorb the $20,000 usually allocated to the Memorial Building from the general fund.
Parks Chairman John Panezott said he feels residents of Salem voted for the two current recreation levies to make certain the parks are taken care of, not so the money could be donated to another organization. While several parks-related events happen in the Memorial Building and Parks Director Steve Faber's office is located in the Memorial Building, the building also houses many functions not related to the park.
About eight years ago, the city was giving the parks department $200,000 annually, but then reduced the amount to $50,000 and then to $25,000. Finally, about three years ago, Faber said the city stopped supporting the parks department out of the general fund except the Worker's Compensation and any unemployment claims. Faber noted while he has not received final figures, the auditor has informed him that Worker's Compensation and unemployment for parks-related employees will now come out of the parks budget.
The parks department is now self-sufficient, utilizing mostly money from the two recreation levies to operate. Another part of the budget, about $68,000 this year, comes from tangible personal property taxes, a tax that unless something changes on the state level is expected to be phased out after this year.
The 1-mill levy up for renewal in the primary is earmarked specifically for recreational purposes. Shifting money to pay for the Memorial Building may cause voters to think twice about voting to renew it and may jeopardize taxpayers' trust costing support on other issues as well.