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Park district board poised to pass 2010 budget

The Vashon Park District’s board is poised to pass a $1.5 million spending plan that maintains the agency’s popular concerts-in-the-park series, enhances its maintenance program and includes money to plan for taking on ownership of the Vashon Pool.

But the budget cuts the park district’s scholarship program, which enables low-income Islanders to enroll in any number of classes or programs at a significantly reduced fee. The park district will attempt to maintain the reduced-fee program at its 2009 level by requiring the organizations that sponsor the various activities — dance classes, youth sports, crew, yoga and exercise classes — to provide matching funds, said park district director Wendy Braicks.

Last year, the park handed out $35,000 in reduced-fee awards. This year, it has budgeted $17,000, with a plan to cover 50 percent of each reduced-fee award and have its partner organizations provide the other 50 percent, she said.

The decision came after park officials queried other small park districts and found few had a reduced-fee program as generous or large as Vashon’s, Braicks said.

“We could see we were not in the norm,” she said.

Most of the partner organizations are fine with the new approach, she said. “They knew this was coming.”

But Betsy Frazee, who runs the Dance Institute as a park district program, said the decision could have an impact on her classes, which draw young people from families that can’t afford some of the other dance programs on the Island.

“It looks like there will be fewer kids dancing, which is really sad,” she said. Whether her program can raise the funds to match the park district’s contributions, she added, “remains to be seen.”

David Hackett, a park commissioner, said he believes it’s both financially prudent and fair to require the programs to match the park district’s contributions. The scholarship program started out quite modestly and has grown every year, coming in over budget this past year, he said. At the same time, some clubs bring in specialty coaches and undertake other activities that make their programs quite costly, he said.

“They should have some responsibility to set a fee that’s affordable, and if they’re going to have extras, like professional coaches, then you’ve got to raise the money to pay for those,” he said.

The budget, which the commissioners are expected to approve at their Jan. 12 meeting, includes very little in new expenditures, Braicks said. The only significant new expense, she said, is the decision to hire an additional maintenance worker; the agency will also extend its contract with its grant writer.

The budget also includes an $8,500 line item that would enable the park district to begin planning for the take-over of the Vashon Pool, now owned and operated by King County.

The county, which is strapped for funds, wants to transfer the pool to the park district. Braicks said the park district’s commissioners also want to see the park district take it on, but only if they’re certain the pool’s income will be sufficient to offset its additional costs.

The park district will use the funds to hire consultants who will craft a business plan for the pool, she said.

Hackett said the budget seems like a strong one and expects the commissioners will pass it.

“We have a bare-bones budget,” he said.

Board to meet

Vashon Park District’s board of commissioners will hold its annual planning retreat from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at Quarters B at Point Robinson Park. The meeting is open to the public. The board will vote on its 2010 budget at its next business meeting, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12. The meeting will be held at Ober Park.

The budget can be viewed on the park district’s Web site, www.vashonparkdistrict.org.

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