New taxing district to fund Sequim parks proposed to City Council

SEQUIM — The city’s parks and recreation advisory board has recommended that the City Council take steps to form a parks and recreation district to raise tax revenue to pay for rising costs and public demand for city parks and recreation services.

The parks and recreation board on Feb. 21 recommended the action to the council based on citizen support of a Parks and Recreation District in a residents assessment survey conducted last year.

The advisory board suggested that the council set a parks fee schedule, recognizing that the formation of a “metropolitan parks district” requires council time and deliberation.

“It’s something we’ve been looking at for a couple of years, improving the parks system,” City Manager Steve Burkett said.

“Timing is the issue,” he said. “It could be a year from now, it could be two years from now.”

Burkett said the City Council is expected to set its priorities for the next year at its annual retreat, beginning at 8 a.m. Friday at the Cedars at Dungeness conference room, 1965 Woodcock Road.

“We have to set priorities, and police service and a police station are a higher priority than a parks and recreation district,” Burkett said, referring to the city’s plans to place on the Aug. 7 ballot a one-tenth-of-1-percent sales tax increase to raise revenue for a new Sequim police station.

City Councilman Don Hall, who has been the council liaison to the parks and recreation board for more than nine years, said the advisory panel has heard support for a parks and recreation district from those who use the Sequim Family Advocates’ new Haller Memorial Playfields at the city’s water reclamation demonstration park, and the Little League fields west of River Road.

“The city is getting to the point that we can’t control it,” Hall said of public demand for a parks system.

Hall said a parks district would allow the city to put a levy before the voters.

“We’re stepping it up and trying to give it to the council now to make the major decision,” Hall said.

A 2011 city-contracted survey by Leisure Vision, a division of ETC Institute of Olathe, Kan., showed that 60 percent said they supported developing a regional parks and recreation district governed by a board representing residents both inside and outside city limit.

Of 722 completed surveys, 63 percent of households are “very supportive, 42 percent are “somewhat supportive,” and 21 percent are not supportive of the city focusing on providing an enhanced level of parks, trails and recreation facilities and programs.

Asked whether they would be willing to pay additional property taxes for an enhanced parks and recreation system, 67 percent of households responded that they would pay “some amount of additional property taxes.”

“This includes 12 percent of households that would pay $10 or more per month, 8 percent that would pay $6-$7 per month, 20 percent that would pay $4-$5 per month, and 27 percent that would pay $1-$3 per month,” according to the Leisure Vision survey report.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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