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Despite growth, parks budget will hold steady

With luck, it will be a boring year when it comes to paying for where and how South Whidbey has fun.

A first draft of a conservative 2003 budget for the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District did not cause much of a stir during a public hearing Wednesday night. In fact, it caused no stir, since no members of the public were at the meeting to talk about the coming year's money matters.

Looking over the numbers, four district commissioners got their first long glance over the numbers at the meeting. There was little comment about $518,397 in expenditures for the coming year, or about the district's $517,196 in expected revenues from property taxes, program fees and other sources.

Seeming to speak for his colleagues, commissioner Paul Arand said he needs to take time to read through the budget before commenting or proposing changes. That reading will have to occur before Nov. 13, the date on which the district must pass its budget to be prepared to start the new year.

District director Suzette Hart, the budget's author, said there simply are not many new items on the expense or revenue side of the district's funding equation. With a tax levy set at 15 cents for every $1,000 of property value in the district, parks interests will more or less hold steady this year. Some costs will even go down. Even though district employees will, for the first time, receive cost of living adjustments this year, Hart said budgeted administration expenses of $146,628 should be slightly lower than in the 2002 budget.

Also down are program expenses. Though programs are the most visible part of the district's operations, next to maintaining the South Whidbey Community Park, some streamlining is expected to drop program expenses by about $11,000 over last year. Hart said some programs that are not uses will probably be cut.

One of the more surprising numbers is the small, 3.74-percent increase in maintenance costs. Hart said the district will attempt to keep those costs low, even though the district added about 30 acres of woods and ball fields to the community park this fall. However, Hart said, the district will be putting money into capital projects funds, betting it will need more equipment to keep up with lawn mowing and other maintenance activities.

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