Parks district considering upping the levy

By Meg Olson

Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District commissioners are looking at asking the community for a significant boost in their levy this fall.

At their April 12 meeting, commissioners discussed what number to put on the ballot when they go to the voters this November to renew their operational levy, which expires at the end of the year.

“We are thinking about increasing it,” said commissioner Stephen Falk, and the increase they are considering is a significant one, up to a doubling of levy revenue. “We want to hire a part-time manager and our budget today is so small if we make a small increase it won’t generate what we need to accomplish what we need to
accomplish.”

Currently the parks district collects approximately $50,000 a year through its operational levy, costing taxpayers eight cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation each year. This levy is the only source of operating revenue for the district, paying for upkeep of the community center and Baker Field, as well as parks programs and a portion of the senior center programs.

In addition, taxpayers are paying off a 10-year bond for improvements to the community center with an additional tax of six cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a $200,000 home paid a total tax bill of $28 in 2017 to the parks district.

“There is consensus we need to go higher,” Falk said, but also an agreement the commissioners need to get their comprehensive plan in place before they settle on a number. “One of our reasons for doing the plan was for voters to see what we’re asking them to pay for.”

In addition to hiring a part-time manager for local parks, currently maintained by volunteer commissioners, the district has a number of other current and proposed projects to fund. The septic system for the community center requires immediate replacement. “We have enough in savings, [but] it would wipe that out,” Falk said. In the interest of responsible financial management, the district tries to keep six months of operating revenue in the bank.

Commissioners have also indicated an interest in investing more in local parks and facilities to deliver more value to the public. “We keep talking about little improvements at Baker Field but we need a plan and the funding to make it work,” Falk said.

Commissioner Mary Edgley voiced concern that the public needed to know this was not a levy for new capital projects, but the only source of funds for the district to continue to operate parks facilities and programs. “My fear is if the number’s too high it will be voted down and, basically, we’ll be out of business,” she said.

Commissioners will continue to discuss their comprehensive plan and operational levy request at coming meetings. The levy amount would need commissioner approval by July before going to the county auditor in August for inclusion on the November ballot.

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