Do we need two County Park authorities?

  • By admin
  • September 24, 2016
  • Comments Off on Do we need two County Park authorities?

We'll pay twice for County ParksMason County already has a Parks and Trails Department to maintain its parks. Prop. 1 will add another layer of expensive bureaucracy and will not benefit taxpayers.

Prop 1 creates a new Metropolitan Park District – a political entity that has all the powers of a city. Created under RCW Chapter 35.61, the new Park District would raise money for recreation projects through a property tax, and would be overseen by a five-member commission.

The County Parks Department is not going away. The Commissioners have been clear that there are title and funding restrictions on many existing parks which make it impossible for them to “give” them to anyone.

Since there’s no budget, we don’t know what the new Park District will do with our money. We do know it will have power to hire an expensive new executive director, park police and other staff. They’ll need a headquarters and equipment. Park commissioners’ annual stipends have been raised to $10,944 each and are due to be raised again in 2018 (See WSR 13-12-078.) And of course they’ll undoubtedly be buying and developing land.

So we don’t know the exact amount they’ll spend, though we can see it will be expensive and that it is virtually all a duplication of the County Parks Department. At the July 19 Commissioner meeting, Commissioner Neatherlin made it clear that the County will continue to have a Parks Department. That’s not going away. We’ll just be paying twice for the same services.

Two county parks authorities, with two agendas, both with county-wide taxing authority.

The Metropolitan Park District would not answer to the County. Park commissioners would operate
independently during their six year term. And under State law the new District would have the power to levy up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation; to take homes or land through eminent domain; and to issue general obligation bonds.

If citizens create an MPD and then decide that was a mistake, it will be too late. Once we create the MPD, we citizens cannot “un-create” it. Only the MPD board members/commissioners have the power to dissolve the MPD. (RCW 35.61.310)

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