Parks levy to head to voters in May

The Parks and Recreation District hopes that, for its funding levy, the second time’s a charm.

It needs to be: if voters fail to approve the biannual maintenance and operation levy that funds the Park District by the end of the year, the district will run out of money.

Voters narrowly rejected the $4.78 million levy that went before the public in February.

The district intends to put a new funding measure on the May 21 write-in ballot; in the meantime, it will be busy garnering public support.

At the next two Park Board meetings – the first on March 14 – the board will seek public comment on park priorities and funding issues.

One group that has been formally invited to participate in the discussions is the Parents For Better Parks. The group organized a campaign to defeat the February levy, citing poor maintenance at Bainbridge ball fields and other park facilities.

“Given that they objected to the last levy, it is only responsible that (Parents For Better Parks) let us know how they want things to change,” said Park board member Dave Shorett.

The Park Board is also creating an education committee to better inform the public about the purpose of the levy, and to enlist active support from user groups.

Lewis stressed that decisions about how the money gets spent are not set in stone once the levy goes forward.

“The proposed budget is just that – proposed,” Lewis said. “The actual line items aren’t adopted until the fall.”

As yet, no revisions to the budget proposed in February have been made. “All of us, the staff and the Board, were very comfortable with the levy as it was the last time, so any changes will be as a result of public comment,” Lewis said.

Both Lewis and Shorett said that public support – and passage – of the levy was essential.

“Last time, opponents argued that (the levy) didn’t need to be approved immediately,” said Shorett. “This time, if it doesn’t pass, the parks really will shut down.”

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