Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, March 17, 2022

Columbus City Council members have approved using up to $11.5 million in bonds to fund new parks and recreation spaces at the NexusPark campus.

The bonds are not to exceed $11.5 million and go to fund spaces for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department — including recreational spaces and a new department headquarters — at NexusPark. According to city officials, these bonds will be payable from a special tax levied on the Columbus Park District.

In a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, the Columbus City Council passed on second reading an ordinance approving the parks bonds. The city council had passed the ordinance on first reading on March 1. Ordinances must pass on two readings to be fully approved.

Councilwoman Elaine Hilber remained in opposition to the ordinance after voting against it during its first reading.

Previously, Hilber voiced apprehension about the taxpayer impact of the bonds. She has also expressed concerns in the past about how Donner Center is not being prioritized and how the NexusPark project might impact availability of funding for other endeavors.

Andrew Lanam with Stifel Financial Corp. has said at previous city meetings that a number of properties will not see an increase from the levy, as it is subject to tax caps.

Regular homestead exemption properties have a 1% tax cap; those already at the cap will not see an increase from the levy. For residential properties that are not at the cap, there will be an estimated increase of 0.39% to their overall tax bill. For a home with a gross assessed value of $125,000, the estimated increase would be $5.09 per year.

Properties with a tax cap of 2% — such as apartments or agricultural properties — would not see an impact because they are already at the tax cap. Properties with a 3% tax cap — such as commercial and industrial real estate — would see an estimated increase of 0.39%.

The costs associated with issuing the park bonds are estimated to be approximately $250,000, which would leave about $11.25 million available for project funding, said Lanam. The estimated cost of interest on the bonds is a little over $4.5 million.

The city council vote came after the Columbus Parks and Recreation Board voted last week to approve a resolution “Confirming the Project, Authorizing the Bonds and Appropriating the Bond Proceeds.”

Board member Julie Abedian abstained from the vote, as she is an employee of Columbus Regional Health. The hospital has partnered with the city on the NexusPark project, though the bonds addressed in the resolution do not pertain to CRH’s portion of the development.