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Park levy will be on November ballot

Vashon Park District will ask voters in November for the funds to keep the agency afloat for six more years.

The park district operates entirely on tax dollars from levies the agency puts forth for voter approval every four to six years.

For years, 45 cents of every $1,000 in assessed home value has gone to the park district. In November, the district will ask for an extra nickel — 50 cents per $1,000 — for six years, 2010 to 2015.

The nickel, said park board member David Hackett, will fund the park district’s newly adopted responsibility for maintaining Vashon Island School District’s athletic fields.

The fields are used by athletes from schools and the larger community, many of whom play sports through a Vashon Park District program.

The park district took the responsibility for maintaining school fields in July, hiring a groundskeeper and investing in seed and fertilizer. The district anticipates spending $150,000 on the fields in 2010.

The school district “didn’t have sufficient resources to maintain those properties the way they should be maintained, and we’re putting the money into it,” Hackett said.

“We’ve greatly expanded our programs’ use of the parks ... but we’re seeing facilities that aren’t keeping up with use,” he added. “Where we have an obligation as a park district is to provide the infrastructure for people to use those parks and fields.”

Additionally, in the past three years, Vashon Park District has taken on responsibility for three new parks: the Burton Adventure Recreation Center, the Vashon Elementary School site and Sunrise Ridge, said Tim Lafferty, park district maintenance supervisor, at the park board meeting Aug. 4.

The park district also has recently renovated and opened historic park buildings at Point Robinson and Fern Cove as vacation rentals.

Though the buildings bring in income, their renovations must be paid off for years, and the buildings require staff time for upkeep, noted park district executive director Wendy Braicks at the park board meeting.

Still, longtime board member Bill Ameling said there are some homeowners who will balk at the thought of paying more for their parks at a time when people and organizations regionwide seem to be tightening their belts.

“From the old-timers’ perspective, the argument would go like this: ‘I’m OK with 45 cents, but anything over it, you’d have to make a good argument for it,’” Ameling said at the Aug. 4 board meeting.

Hackett replied that the park district’s takeover of school fields makes the extra nickel “pretty easy to justify.”

“We’re taking it out of (the school district’s) budget and putting it in our budget,” he said. “In the process, we’ve found that ... it’s not going to be cheap.”

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