Parks and Rec District redesignation headed to ballot

Voters will decide if the district can restructure to a metropolitan district.

North Whidbey Pool, Parks and Recreation District will soon have county approval to let voters decide if they can restructure to a metropolitan district.

At a workshop this week, Island County commissioners were unanimously supportive of the request to place the question on the ballot, although they haven’t officially voted on it yet. Proponents need to get support from Oak Harbor and county officials to avoid a petitioning process; the city council approved the request earlier.

The commissioners discussed the issue briefly.

“I want to thank you for what I have seen as a dramatic increase in level of service and outreach in North Whidbey, especially the programming you’ve done for children and families,” Commissioner Janet St. Clair said to representatives of the parks and rec district. “I appreciate that a lot. This board has a dedication to equity and helping communities, and you are part of our partnership in that effort.”

It makes sense for citizens to be able to vote on taxes in this case, said Commissioner Melanie Bacon.

“Our resolution that we are being asked to take to the regular consent agenda, really it just says ‘let the citizens vote,’ and I’m always in favor of letting the citizens vote on taxes if we can,” she said.

While the parks and rec district will retain its boundaries and services, redesignation will stabilize finances. In 2017, after a levy failure, the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool had to shut its doors, and the district is still recovering from this today.

Metro districts can collect property taxes without having to ask voters to pass a levy on a regular basis. Creation of a metro district requires only a 50% majority vote, after which the district’s legislative body may impose permanent property taxes, according to Municipal Research and Services Center. Like other local governmental entities, the levy would be limited to an annual increase of 1% without the vote of the people.