Port Townsend proposal for parks, recreation funding includes tax increases
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Attendees at Monday night’s Port Townsend City Council meeting include, from left, parents Shelley Randall and Lelah Wright, former Metropolitan Parks District Steering Committee co-chair Kathleen Kler, County Administrator Philip Morley and Commissioner Phil Johnson. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A proposal from the Port Townsend city manager for recreational funding alternatives would require voter-approved tax increases to sustain recreational services in the long term.

The plan submitted by City Manager David Timmons to the City Council on Monday aims to provide ongoing funding for recreational facilities.

Options for continued funding include the creation of a special purpose parks and facilities district, a 0.02 percent sales tax increase and a 10-cent special purpose levy, all of which would require voter approval.

The plan also asks Jefferson County to fund the $5 million repair of the Mountain View Campus through a bond, which the city cannot do because its bond capacity will not accommodate that amount.

“We’ve seen this coming for years,” Council member Michelle Sandoval said of the recreation funds shortfall.

“We’ve had packets of information about solutions but we can’t seem to get off the dime.

“We can not act, but no action is not leadership and we need to get this done.”

One of the components of Timmons’ plan is a “dashboard” offering a one-stop online location where recreation providers can list their services and what they cost, giving the public a single source for recreation options.

“The idea of the dashboard is fabulous,” said Shelley Randall, a parent who has helped to form Parents (and the Public) Loudly Advocating for Youth, or PLAY, that is also seeking funding solutions.

“Right now, parents need to go to five websites to see what is going on,” Randall said.

“We need to have a place where we can pull together, and a little bit of money can go a long way.”

Timmons proposes that the programs operate on a fee basis, with funding to provide equal access would come from a county-wide special purpose levy of 10 cents.

That would generate about $450,000 per year so that children who can’t afford the services can get them.

The plan aims to both repair Mountain View Commons and fulfill “the long-term commitment to offering a long-term solution for the funding of Parks and Recreation that was made to Jefferson County taxpayers when they passed the Proposition 1 sales tax increase in 2010,” according to Timmons’ memo in the City Council packet.

The continued funding of parks and recreation has been an issue since the late 1990s.

In 2010, voters approved a sales tax increase of 0.03 percent to support Memorial Field and the Port Townsend Recreation Center — county-owned properties within the city limit.

Port Townsend has a commitment to provide money to those properties, an estimated $240,000 a year. That commitment expires May 2015.

An agreement in February expanded the revenue use of the sales tax hike to include developing a joint city-county metropolitan park district, an idea now not being pursued, and emergency repair of the municipal pool if needed.

The city since has examined now much it will cost to repair the Mountain View Commons, which houses the pool as well as several city services including a police substation and the Jefferson YMCA and Port Townsend Food Bank.

Repairs to the Mountain View Commons will cost an estimated $5 million.

City officials will not enter into a long-term lease with the Port Townsend School District, which owns Mountain View, until the funds for the repairs have been secured.

“We need to fix Mountain View but all these properties are connected,” Timmons said.

“We should find a way to deal with all of them together.”

If a plan to coordinate funding between the three properties is not developed, city officials would concentrate on Mountain View while the county would be responsible for Memorial Field and the recreation center without city support, Timmons said.

Prior to the passage of Proposition 1, county representatives said the county lacked the money to support the facilities and they would have to close.

Timmons plan requires the county’s help in raising the money to repair Mountain View through its bonding availability, resulting in a 20-year commitment of about $370,000.

The city has committed its Proposition 1 funding through 2017 for fire equipment, after that time it would take over responsibility for the debt service for the remainder of the bond period.

Timmons said he is confident that the city can make up the difference between $240,000 and $370,000, but Jefferson County Adminstrator Philip Morley is skeptical that can be achieved.

“We need more information about what funding sources will be used to satisfy the debt service,” Morley said.

“If they cannot serve the debt, then it becomes the county’s responsibility and we don’t have the revenue to support that.”

Timmons’ plan is to eventually transfer ownership of Memorial Field and the Rec Center to the city, something Morley said the county has proposed several times.

“A lot of these repairs don’t need to be done right now,” Morley said.

“If the roof comes down at Memorial Field, it will still continue to be used in some fashion,” he said.

“If the gymnasium at the Rec center becomes further structurally compromised between now and when we are able to fund repairs, we can simply close the gymnasium,” Morley continued.

“These are things that we have some time to solve. It would be lovely to solve them now but we don’t have the dollars in hand today to do that.”

The matter will be discussed at a meeting today between Morley, Timmons and their respective staffs.

“Since the memo came out, we haven’t had any discussions so it’s not clear what happens,” Morley said.

“We are looking forward to meeting with the city to help them solve the issue, to keep Mountain View going and plan how to find long-term solutions that are practical and responsible for both jurisdictions.”

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Jefferson County Editors Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 07. 2014 6:32PM
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