The Metro Council on Thursday decided to ask voters in November to consider renewing the current parks and natural areas local-option levy that pays for restoration and maintenance, park operations and opportunities for people to access parks and natural areas.
A yes vote in the Nov. 8 election would extend the end date of levy funding from June 2018 to June 2023.
Renewing the levy would not raise taxes because it would continue the existing rate. The levy costs 9.6 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value – about $20 a year for the owner of a home with $200,000 in assessed value.
The levy, if renewed, is projected to raise about $81 million over the course of five years.
About half of the money would go toward restoring and maintaining natural areas to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. About 20 to 30 percent would go toward regional parks operations. The rest would go toward improving parks and natural areas for people, grants for community nature projects, and nature education and volunteer programs.
Levy money would also be aimed at diversifying the contractors that Metro hires as well as improving programs and facilities for underserved communities, such as communities of color, low-income communities and youths.
The levy renewal request comes after the Metro Council on Feb. 4 unanimously approved a road map for future parks and nature work. At that meeting, Metro Council President Tom Hughes said the council would consider asking voters to renew the levy in November to sustain Metro’s parks and nature system.
Metro owns more than 17,000 acres of parks, trails and natural areas. Much of the land was acquired with money from natural areas bond measures that voters approved in 1995 and 2006.
In 2013, voters in the greater Portland metro region approved a five-year, local-option levy to protect clean water, restore wildlife habitat, and provide opportunities for people to access natural areas and rivers.