Tax fund for Lake Co. park short thousands



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A special tax that funds Lake County's park system will be hundreds of thousands of dollars short next year.

But county leaders are determined to keep all of the parks open, and they plan to do it without a tax increase.

Gary and Sandy Fields said the pickleball court is their favorite part of Lake County's Pear Park. They said all of the county's parks are worth every cent of the taxes they pay.

"There are a lot of disadvantaged people now that have lost their jobs, and this might be their only recreation. While people are working, they should pay higher taxes to help," said Lake County resident Sandy Fields.

Finding enough money to maintain all the county parks has not been easy. This past summer, it triggered a heated argument at the County Commission.

Commission Chairperson Leslie Campione and Commissioner Jimmy Conner locked horns over a proposed tax increase for the parks system. In the end, it wasn't needed.

Conner, who is the new chairman, said he won't let money problems close any of them.

"No. Not going happen. We're expanding our parks," said Conner.

But a special tax and grants that pay for the parks will come up nearly $400,000 short next year. The money will be taken out of the county's general fund to make up the difference.

It may take another year for property tax collections to raise enough to cover the park systems costs. The Fields said they are OK with paying a little more to keep their pickleball court open, but Conner believes it won't be necessary.

"I'm optimistic that we will not have to look at raising taxes," Conner said.