Prop. 1 is not the answer to budget problems.

  • By admin
  • September 21, 2016
  • Comments Off on Prop. 1 is not the answer to budget problems.

web-funds-divertedReduced funding is the central rationale given by the Prop. 1 proponents.

One even went so far as to write a letter to the editor which warned that if we don’t pass Prop. 1, “The county will have no other option than to…slowly shut down the park system” due to lack of funds. This is just a scare tactic.

The fact is that the county has been slowly increasing fund 001-146-000, the general fund for Parks and Trails, since 2013 when the budget was $469,026. The preliminary 2017 budget for County Parks is $610,735.

The candidates regularly complain that REET 2 money is not being used exclusively for parks. Let’s unpack that. REET stands for Real Estate Excise Tax, a special account created under RCW 82.446.035.  By law REET money can only be used for capital projects including roads, water systems, sewer systems and parks. The county commissioners make the call where each year’s funds are most needed. This decision does not take money out of the parks general fund.

It is true that less REET2 money has gone to Parks in the last few years. The County Commissioners directed non-designated funds from REET2 into a loan to the Belfair sewer district which is experiencing cash flow problems.

This is unfortunate. But the Commissioners felt it was important to keep Belfair sewer treatment plant from defaulting on their debts, which would have damaged the credit of the entire County. It was the right call.

No one knows how long it will take before the Belfair system is in a better cash flow situation. Eventually the projected growth will happen, the finances will improve and the Belfair sewer will pay its own bills. Even during this budget crunch, Parks has continued to receive some REET2 money, though less than before.

We don’t need an expensive new forever-Park District set up to address a budget crunch that will last a few years. A second County Parks Authority, with all its overhead and salaries and spending is not the answer.

If you think the County needs to make Parks a higher priority, let your County Commissioners know. If you would be willing to vote for a special levy designated solely for Parks, let your Commissioners know. There’s a lot we can do with the government we have.

One of the Prop. 1 organizers recently wrote that using a special levy to raise designated funds for parks would be “a terrible approach.” He stated that an MPD levy would “(reduce) the cost to the taxpayer by 75 percent or more” over a County levy.

This is horsefeathers. There’s nothing magic about MPD levy money that can’t be accomplished by County levy  money. If the County holds a special levy and collects designated funds for Parks, they’ll be able to use it to hire a grantwriter and for the grant match, just like the MPD would. The big difference is that the MPD is building an organization from scratch, so a lot of their levy money will go to fund new employees and MPD infrastructure. Giving designated levy money to the Park authority we have will result in more money for parks, less money for overhead.

Forming another government will not solve our budget crunch.

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