Like many of you, my family has had to make necessary adjustments over the last few years in what we WANT to have versus what we NEED to have. We think the city should do the same. Many of the amenities they want us to fund are really in the “want” category, not the “need”. The Metropolitan Park District that is being put before you this November would raise your property taxes to start with by $.35/$1000 of assessed value on your home. They can increase this amount to $.75/$1000 at any time, because if you vote yes, you give them that authority.
The City is required to maintain and operate an “adequate” system for parks. This newly created park district will increase your taxes but won’t necessarily lead to increased spending on parks as General Fund money going to parks now, could be withdrawn. The money the city no longer slated for parks could then be used to fund anything the Council chooses, without a vote of the citizen.
There is no accountability to the citizens of Vancouver in the use of General Funds. In fact, they would not be required to spend any other money from the General Fund to go toward the maintenance or building of parks. This new district would satisfy that “adequate” requirement.
And, their suggestion that raising this money would fix major repairs, expand teen center hours, expand specialized programs and repair major trails, among other things, with this new tax district when they already have $6.9 million budgeted for parks and it’s not getting done now, is questionable at best. The $4.5 million they raise from hiking your property taxes isn’t enough to accomplish what they say they want to do. The city cannot afford to continue to spend the $6.9 million on parks. They could, at their own discretion, reduce that amount by at least the $4.5 million you will be paying with this tax increase. That does not increase funding for parks.
The City is also on the hook for the debt service and interest to both Firstenburg and Marshall Centers. We currently owe over $1.5 million on those centers. This Metro Park District money won’t be used to reduce that debt.
Proponents for this park district say these are guaranteed funds for parks. They are. But, why not guarantee funding for Police and Fire instead? One is a want, the other a need. Currently, much of the funding to support Police and Fire districts comes from grants they hope to get. The grants are never a guarantee. Fire Station 6 was closed due to lack of funds. The only reason Fire Station 6 was reopened was because they secured a grant. That grant money is now gone. Fire Station 6, is once again scheduled to be shut down. Public safety is of utmost importance and serious consideration for permanent funding for that should be given rather than for embellishing parks and creating more programs.
And whatever happened to neighbors helping neighbors anyway? Why can’t we all just chip in and help mow and beautify our own parks? A little elbow grease among friends would do wonders for neighborhood comradery and fellowship. And just think of the sense of pride one would feel at the accomplishment. The Parks Foundation of Clark Co already exists to support parks, trails and recreational programs. This and the ‘Adopt A Park’ program are just such entities and could be quite a boon to this effort!
The last time the voters were asked to create and fund a Park district was in 2005. It created the Vancouver Clark Park District which assessed $.27/$1000 on your property. And now they’re back for more. Clark County has the highest property tax rates in the state now, even before any other possible increases being voted on this November. We keep hearing “it’s only a small amount”. But those small amounts add up. When taxes go up, it affects us all.
Nearly 70% of the Parks budget is compensation related. The mayor says pensions are on an unsustainable curve. He’s right. The city needs to look long and hard at why these salaries and pensions are at an all time high. Voters are guarantying the retirement benefits of many of its employees. City park employees should not continue to receive 1970’s type pensions. Private industry converted to defined contribution type pensions 30 years ago. The retirement plans that are in existence today are very expensive and should be changed to other less expensive types of plans that could eliminate a long term liability that is included in the cost of maintaining parks.
The short of this is, can we afford to increase our taxes now, while our economy is still in serious condition, and so many families are still in short supply of funding for their own necessities? And even if we could afford it, should the money go to parks or ensure our safety services? The city runs short of money and instead of trimming the fat, they come to you to fund their shortfall- everytime. Now is NOT the time. Please, Vote no on the Metropolitan Park District ballot measure. Thank you.
The new MPD is more than just a park district. It is a taxing district with broad powers and no guaranteed accountability.
The proposed rate is $.35/1000 but can be permanently hiked to $.75/1000 without your vote. Your no vote will stop this tax hike.
They will have the right to take your land by eminent domain to build, add, or change parklands.
They can build boulevards, airstrips and more and put you, the taxpayer into debt without your consent.
And, they can create a park police department with full police powers.
Furthermore, the revenue that is raised by this proposal, does not necessarily lead to more money for parks. The money now earmarked for parks in the General Funds could be used for other purposes. The result is a classic Bait and Switch. Vote no.
Our mayor says public pensions are on an unsustainable curve. Seventy percent (70%) of this department’s budget is compensation related. Shouldn’t the city be revamping this department’s compensation plan to save us money before asking to set up a separate taxing district? If there are existing union contracts in place let’s wait until they expire and then revisit this proposal.
Police and fire, jobs required to save lives, probably deserve taxpayer supported retirement plans; most other city employees deserve the same level of compensation their private sector jobs offer.
Do you want a tennis center or do you need police and fire protection?