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Voters OK park lid-lift

A lot had changed in the financial world between July – when the Bainbridge Metropolitan Parks and Recreation District decided to put a property tax levy lid-lift proposal on the ballot – and election day.

Despite the intervening financial crises, nearly 54 percent of island voters favored the lid-lift in Tuesday’s election. The bulk of revenue from the tax hike will pay for open space acquisition and development. With 22,500 Kitsap County votes left to count, Friday, 6,480 islanders had voted for the measure, with 5,534 opposing. It was the first lid-lift passed by the district since voters approved its switch to a metropolitan district in 2005.

“This is a weight off my shoulders,” park district Board Chair Ken DeWitt said after viewing early results Tuesday evening. “I think this result shows that people trust in the park district to do the right thing with their money.”

The lid-lift will bump the park district’s levy to $0.75 cents per $1,000 assessed value, and raise an estimated $1.1 million to $1.2 million annually. The park district is committed to spending at least 75 percent of the added revenue on open space acquisition and development, while 25 percent will go toward maintaining and operating parks.

The money will also allow the park district to begin accepting open space property from the city, park district Executive Director Terry Lande said.

“If (the lid-lift) hadn’t passed, we’d be telling the city ‘sorry, we can’t do it because we don’t have the money to maintain the land,’” Lande said.

The passage of the lid-lift will add plenty of new agenda items for the park board this winter.

The new revenue stream won’t kick in until April. Meanwhile, the district must revise its recently passed 2009 budget to include the lid-lift. The park board will also determine how to best gather public input on projects to be funded with the lid lift money, and will form a citizen advisory committee to make recommendations. Park Board Member Lee Cross said the board has already received 10 letters from citizens interested in joining the board but is still accepting applications. She said the board hopes to name the committee by the end of the year.

“We want to reach out to people and hear from the public about what projects they would like to see as priorities, because it will be their money we will be spending,” Cross said.

The board will discuss the lid-lift at its Nov. 13 meeting.

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