Coyle park district to consider floating levy measure in 2013
By Charlie Bermant and Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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The chairman of the Jefferson County Parks & Recreation District 1 Commission, Larry Robinson, said the five commissioners will discuss at their next meeting possibly resubmitting the measure to voters in 2013.
The meeting will start at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Laurel B. Johnson Toandos Community Center at 923 Hazel Point Road.
The proposal, which would continue a levy of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation for six years, was defeated because it did not receive a 60 percent supermajority approval from voters.
That point was both incorrectly reported in the Peninsula Daily News and was not immediately clear to at least some of the district commissioners.
Original election reports in the PDN were incorrect in saying the measure needed only a simple majority — 50 percent plus 1 — to pass.
The measure received 157 votes, or 56.3 percent, approval and 122 votes, or 43.7 percent, opposed out of 279 votes cast.
If the measure had received 10 more approval votes out of those cast, it would have passed.
Robinson said he and others thought passage would be assured by a simple majority.
“The information we were getting was that it had to be a simple majority, and now we learn it needed a supermajority,” he said Thursday.
“We’re going to do what we can and take it from there.”
The measure would have replaced a levy that will expire in 2013 and was expected to generate about $22,000 each year for the maintenance and upkeep of the Toandos Community Center, which hosts many community activities.
If it had been approved, the owner of a $200,000 house would have paid $30 a year for the levy.
Robinson said he had thought all the commissioners were under the impression that only a simple majority was needed for passage.
Commissioner Richard Hull, however, said he was clear about the 60 percent requirement after talking to the Jefferson County Auditor’s Office earlier this year and had informed the board about this at a recent meeting.
Commissioner Jillian Greenwood said it was surprise to her.
“We were caught off guard by this,” Greenwood said.
“I didn’t think that we needed 60 percent for a maintenance and operations extension.”
Greenwood said her impression came from the most recent time the measure was on the ballot — in 2006.
She said she met with Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge and Assessor Jack Westerman III, who told her a simple majority was needed for this renewal.
Westerman remembers the meeting differently, saying he did not tell Greenwood that.
“I’ve always known that all parks and recreation levies require 60 percent,” Westerman said.
On Monday, Greenwood sent an email to Eldridge requesting that Eldridge review the matter and verify state law.
Westerman contacted the state to clarify the law and was informed that 60 percent passage was needed to continue the levy, and Eldridge sent an email to Greenwood stating that the measure failed.
Greenwood said Thursday that she isn’t giving up and will seek further clarification from the state.
Westerman said the “good news” about the defeat is that the district has two opportunities to run the levy again and has choices of four election days — in February, April, August and November — to do so without interrupting its levy income.
Westerman said it was common for an identical levy to be resubmitted to the voters after its defeat “while providing more information about the levy’s purpose.”
Sometimes, the term of a levy is modified to ensure its passage, he said.
Eldridge said ballots on hand will be counted Nov. 21 before the election is certified Nov. 27 but that the outcome in the Coyle levy vote will not change.
“With the ballots we have on hand, it is not physically possible that the measure will win,” she said.
Greenwood said she would like to see the district resubmit the levy in 2013, but to do so will cost more.
“We did this in November because the cost to us depends upon how many other measures are on the ballot, and we were trying to be prudent,” she said.
“Losing by 10 votes, that just hurts.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: November 15. 2012 5:47PM