Mansfield voters will likely see a levy on parks in a future ballot.
“Basically, we’ll try again,” Mayor Tim Theaker said after the failed swab Tuesday night.
According to final, unofficial totals from the Richland County Board of Elections, voters rejected the 0.25% income tax by a margin of 2,745 to 2,217.
The four-year tax would have raised about $3.7 million a year starting in 2023. It would have been used exclusively for the city’s parks and recreation department.
A new swimming pool at Liberty Park was to be the centerpiece. Since Linden Pool closed in 2016, Liberty Park Pool, which opened in 1936, was the only option for Mansfield residents looking for a public outdoor pool.
The Liberty Park swimming pool closed last August. The Ford Hill and Unity pools closed several years ago.
A new pool would cost $8.5 million.
“We need something to keep people busy over the summer,” Theaker said. “Liberty Park doesn’t exist. It needs a lot of work. We’re not going to open it.”
A person earning $32,000 a year would have paid between $36.50 and $43.80
The 0.25% income tax would have cost a resident earning $32,000 a year between $36.50 and $43.80 a year.
Since it was an income tax, people on fixed incomes would not have had to pay.
“When you’re looking at $4 a gallon gas, it’s hard to ask for more money to run the parks,” said Parks Superintendent Mark Abrams. “Maybe the time wasn’t right.”
Abrams said he was “campaigning light” and believed the measure would have failed by a greater margin with an aggressive campaign.
Theaker credited Abrams for stepping up.
“I have to give Mark a lot of credit,” the mayor said. “He approached me and said, ‘I would really like to run a campaign.’ He was the spearhead.”
Theaker added that officials will have to “change our strategy” before voting again.
The levy money would have been used for other improvements to city parks, including new and better lighting for all parks.
The funds would also have supported the replacement of aging infrastructure, as well as the replacement of toilets and pavilions. Another goal is to connect Maple Lake Park to the bike path with a footpath.
Park improvements included in the master plan
The improvements were part of a $29 million master plan for city parks.
Current projects include a Burton Park pavilion, a bridge in Middle Park, and wading pools in Johns Park and North Lake Park.
Plans for 2022 include the replacement of the playground at Dickson Park, a clubhouse and playground equipment at Prospect Park, and the Summer Fund in the Parks program.
“We still have PRIDE money, and we appreciate it,” Abrams said. “We still have money that is not appropriate.”
Abrams said he would meet with the administration to plan the next move, adding that he expects school issues to be on the November ballot.
“I hope this isn’t a parks referendum,” Abrams said. “I hope the citizens of Mansfield enjoy their parks.”