Voter turnout key to park levy passage

By Meg Olson

With ballots ready to be returned and a healthy turnout needed, Point Roberts park commissioners want to make sure voters know what the park district’s maintenance and operations levy will and will not pay for.

“Some people think our levy is paying for the library,” new commissioner Arthur Reber said at the October 12 meeting of the Point Roberts parks board. “This levy has other earmarks.”

The district’s maintenance and operations levy provides the funds that keep the district running. The previous six-year maintenance and operations levy is expiring, and the district is asking voters to approve another six-year levy; one that entails a substantial increase.

The district is asking for up to 21.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up from 8.4 cents per $1,000 on the expiring levy. At their June meeting, parks commissioners agreed the initial increase would be 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, doubling the district’s tax income to approximately $100,000 per year. The estimated tax for a $200,000 home would go from $17 per year under the current levy to $34. The board could approve annual increases over the next six years to increase the tax rate to 21.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which translates to $43 of annual tax for a $200,000 home.

Commissioners’ plans for the money include hiring a part time manager for the district, currently run solely by the volunteer commissioners, expanding programs, building reserves, and improving facilities. If the levy is approved, the first step will be to survey the community about what they want to see in the park system and develop a strategic plan.

Funds will also be used to keep doing what the district has always done, maintaining district properties: the community center and grounds as well as Baker Field. The levy will not be used for the current construction of that library, a $750,000 project that is being paid for with funds raised by the Friends of the Point Roberts Library (FOPRL) or contributed by the Whatcom County
Library System (WCLS).

“We own the [library] building so going forward some of our funds will go to that building,” said district chair Linda Hughes, such as repairing a broken window down the road.

To pass, the levy will need 60 percent supermajority approval by voters, but it will also require a minimum total vote of 40 percent of the votes cast in the last general election.

“We need to encourage everyone to get out there and vote,” said commissioner Bennett Blaustein.

Were the levy to fail, the district would have no operating funds in 2018. Reserves are anticipated to be exhausted by April which could lead to facility closures and eliminating programs such as the senior lunches and summer kids camp.

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