The Vashon Park District will be returning to voters on April 25 to renew its Maintenance and Operations Levy.
This levy is not in addition to the existing levy; it is a renewal as is required every 4-6 years. The present levy expires at the end of 2023 and is required to fund the Park District from 2024 – 2027.
Without it, our parks would close.
The current voter-approved levy rate is 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The replacement levy will fund our parks for four more years and is again asking for 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That translates to $225 per year for a property assessed at $500,000 or $450 per year for a property assessed at $1 million.
The following are projected budget items for a 45-cent levy over the next four years:
- Expanded recreation programming, including sailing and skate camps, swimming programs, Ski School, Concerts in the Park, drop-in programs, and new community events;
- Continued recreational services presently enjoyed at all Vashon parks and facilities;
- A $400,000 reserve for cash flow management and emergency funds to maintain our fiscal responsibility commitment;
- Addressing $1.3 million in asset preservation needs, including replacing the Tramp Harbor Dock, Ober Park building repairs, pool repairs, invasive species remediation, Inspiration Point view restoration, and a potential dog park and pickle ball courts.
There is something in it for everyone!
Do your kids participate in non-school sports? VPD provides sports fields, gymnasiums, a public pool, equestrian facilities, and martial arts/dance space for a variety of activities.
Do you attend after-hour meetings at the school district? VPD staff provides after-hours access.
Do you attend theater productions? Theater groups rehearse in VPD facilities.
Do you live next to and enjoy the undeveloped open space around you? VPD owns 509 acres of property on Vashon, many of which are undeveloped.
Visitors to Vashon parks, lodging facilities, and athletic events provide income to island businesses. VPD sponsors the Food Bank’s Picnics in the Park and Strawberry Festival. VPD owns the Concerts in the Park series. The Farmer’s Market is held at the Village Green – a VPD park.
It is quite likely your life is touched by the presence of the Vashon Park District.
Despite keeping our rate at 45 cents, we wish to be fully transparent about this resulting in a 31% increase to our levy revenue due to the sharp jump in total Vashon Assessed property values from 2022 to 2023.
We carefully considered that effect on the ratepayers. We decided to keep our rate at 45 cents for a number of reasons:
- The obvious one is inflation, which we know has also seen sharp jumps in the past couple of years. In 2021, the Seattle CPI was 7.6%. In 2022, it hit upwards of 9%. Government agencies in Washington State, by law, cannot increase their levy revenue by more than 1% year to year within their levy cycles. We simply cannot keep up with rising costs until we have the opportunity to reset with a new levy cycle.
- Labor on Vashon is extremely expensive, as it is well-known how difficult it is to fill low-wage jobs. We must pay a higher wage to attract and retain qualified candidates. Also, we have experienced a need to increase the number of positions – like adding gate attendants to lock our parks at night and a part-time maintenance person due to a marked increase in vandalism over recent years.
- Another factor is recovery from the past. In 2021, we lost 11% of our levy revenue due to having been pro-rationed. Other taxing agencies higher in the tax structure pecking order took higher rates that cut into what we had been approved for by Vashon voters.
- Going back even further was the perfect storm, in 2010, when higher costs associated with the VES Fields project hit at the same time as the recession. Our levy revenue dropped 23% from 2010 through 2013, and didn’t fully recover to 2010 levels until 2018. During that time, we operated on extremely tight budgets and limited recreational services. We were not able to address significant asset preservation needs. We simply have not been able to keep up with inflation and offer the park needs and recreational services that the community desires and deserves.
- We are 100% debt free, and we intend to remain debt free.
- We dropped our rate four years ago from 50 cents to 45 cents in an effort to keep taxes reasonable for the ratepayers.
What appears to be a windfall for 2024 is actually our ONE opportunity to recover from significant losses in the past coupled with asset and service needs in the present and the near future. Too, it effectively translates to getting 5 percent per year for eight years for current and projected future levy cycles.
For further information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-463-9602.
Thank you in advance for voting!
Elaine Ott-Rocheford is the executive director of Vashon Park District.