Parks levy is passing

The property tax levy for the South Whidbey parks district is passing in early vote returns. After 48.9 percent of all Island County ballots counted, the measure is passing with 3,323 votes to 2,056 votes, or 61.8 percent to 38.2 percent.

“I am thrilled,” said Linda Kast, a South Whidbey Parks and Recreation Board Commissioner. “I am happy that we are at over 60 percent and that the constituents are voting for our parks and schools. But I will be more confident when it is all said and done,” she added.

While South Whidbey has traditionally supported parks, Kast said it was an unknown this time which way voters would go.

“I think in this economy one can never be sure,” Kast said.

However, she added that the parks district has a record of managing its funds wisely.

“We’ve been really prudent with our money,” Kast said.

The rate for the four-year levy would remain constant at 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and would be a continuation of a levy that has been in place for years.

A person with a home valued at $300,000 would pay $45 per year.

But while the levy rate will remain constant, the most recent two-year duration of the levy has doubled. However, Kast said the district has run the levy at four or six years durations in the past.

Parks officials have said the funds are needed for regular maintenance and upkeep of its parks and facilities, as well as for the district’s newly acquired responsibilities at three South Whidbey lakes. Parks commissioners recently voted to take over maintenance-and-operations duties for the public-access sites of Lone and Goss lakes in Langley and Deer Lake in Clinton.

Kast is confident that the funds will be enough to pay for the upkeep of those public sites.

“We will make it cover it, even if it doesn’t,” Kast said.

If the levy measure passes, South Whidbey Parks & Recreation would continue its lake management role through 2013. The three properties are owned by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and have been leased to the county for the past 25 years.

The parks budget for 2010 has a starting balance of $751,000, expected revenue of $977,000 and expenditures of $1.3 million

Kast said now that the election is over, parks officials are looking forward to revealing the newly renovated Castle Park playground later this spring, as well as focusing on more programs provided by the district.