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Park district faces a 10 percent budget shortfall, its biggest ever

For the first time in the Vashon Park District’s 26-year history, park district officials are wrestling with how to cut about 10 percent from what they say is already a conservative budget.

The shortfall stems from the Island’s decline in property values. Islanders’ home values dropped 12 percent last year, resulting in less revenue to the park district, which collects revenue at a set rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Now, executive director Wendy Braicks is working to present the board of commissioners with several options to trim about $131,000 from a budget of more than $1 million.

“What I’ll do now is look at it every which way, as many different scenarios as we can come up with, and show the impact,” she said.

Braicks said that in addition to cutting expenses, the district is looking at eliminating some programming, employee hours and services. “We’ve always been conservative on the budget because that’s our style. It’s hard to cut when you’ve already got it down to the bones,” she said. “It’s going to be a challenge to come up with something that lets us operate the way we like.”

The park board began its annual budget discussions on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Commissioner David Hackett said this year easily presents the most difficult budget process he has entered in his five years on the board.

“There’s always a struggle with what the priorities of the district are going to be. In the past our problem was the 1 percent cap on growth of the budget. … This year we wish that was our problem,” he said.

Hackett feels confident that the board is up to the challenge of pruning the budget in a time of growth for the park district. The district took over management of the formerly county-run Vashon Pool last spring and will break ground on a $1.3 million sports fields complex next to The Harbor School this spring.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re doing as much as we can with the money we have and looking at private sources for capital things like our fields budget,” Hackett said.

Both Braicks and Hackett said the district welcomes the public’s input in the budget-setting process. “We like people to be part of it from the very start,” Braicks said. “People who have ideas or comments or questions, that should start right now.”

The board will continue discussing the budget at its Oct. 26 meeting. A draft budget will be approved in December, and the final budget will be adopted in January.

Discuss the budget

The park district’s board of commissioners will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the district offices at Ober Park, where it will continue its budget discussions.

 

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