City, county may remove metro district from primary ballot

The Island County prosecutor has asked Oak Harbor and Island County to rescind their support of a metropolitan district appearing on the primary ballot because of problems with the language.

The ballot measure erroneously states that the Oak Harbor City Council and Island County commissioners supported the formation of a metropolitan district, when in fact they only supported placing it on the ballot for voters to decide. Additionally, the ballot says the new district requires a 50% vote plus one to approve a rate of $0.75 per $1,000 of property tax, when the North Whidbey Pool, Parks and Rec District, which is proposing this change, only supported a $0.25 per $1,000 rate.

“Given the concerns raised about the text of the proposition,” Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said in an email, “there is good reason to back out of it, and let the proponents clarify their proposal, and ensure the city and county resolutions are entirely in agreement.”

The proposed tax creates a bigger budget than the Oak Harbor Parks and Recreation department, said Councilmember Bryan Stucky.

Earlier this month, members of the North Whidbey Pool Parks and Recreation District requested to amend the language, but it was too late. At that time, two members of the board stepped down to participate in increased campaigning for the metro district.

Stucky was the sole vote on the council against the metro district appearing on the ballot when it was originally proposed, and the rest of the council was clear that it was not an endorsement of the metro district but support of it appearing on the ballot.

“I wasn’t for it,” he said. “I would love for the city to absorb pool, parks and rec.”

Parks and Rec officials proposed moving to a metropolitan district as a way to stabilize funding. In the past, the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool had been shut down temporarily after levies didn’t pass. Oak Harbor could run it more effectively and make sure that doesn’t happen, Stucky said.

People signed up for the seats on the proposed metropolitan district during the candidate filing period. If the county and city rescind their support, neither the ballot measure nor the seats will appear on the primary ballot, according to the prosecutor.

In the future, the proponents can ask the city and county leaders to support putting it on the general election ballot or another election ballot in the future, or they could gather 6,000 signatures to get it before voters.

The motion to repeal the ordinance allowing the metro district to go on the ballot will be brought forward at the Oak Harbor city council meeting and the Island County commissioner meeting on Tuesday, May 21.