Parks and Rec seeks hike in replacement levy

The request on the Feb. 8 ballot calls for a levy rate of 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

South Whidbey voters will soon decide whether to approve a maintenance and operations levy for the parks and rec district at a higher rate than the current levy.

The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District’s request on the Feb. 8 ballot calls for a levy rate of 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which is an increase of two cents compared to the levy that expires at the end of 2022.

Like all taxing districts in the state, the parks and rec district can only increase levy revenues by 1% a year, under state law.

“Generally, that does not keep pace with inflation,” said Doug Coutts, the district’s executive director.

With the two-cent increase, the average owner of a home valued at $450,000 will pay an additional $9 per year.

But with the recent surge in property values on the South End, Coutts cautioned that assessments can change.

The levy covers the cost of maintaining the district’s 400 acres, which includes parks, networks of trails and access to three different lakes. Coutts said the district operates with a “lean” staff of six full-time employees, three of which are responsible for all “maintenance aspects.”

Recreational programs such as youth athletics, adult sports leagues and dog training classes are all included in the levy.

Besides programming and the day-to-day operations of keeping the parks open, Coutts said funding from the levy will go towards some projects that have been in need of repair for several years, such as the inoperable elevator in the concessions building in Community Park. Some structures are also in need of roof replacements.

In addition, Coutts said levy revenues will help retain staff, with benefit packages offered that are comparable to other entities in the area. A recent compensation and benefits study brought to light some shortcomings in the park and rec district’s benefits packages, which don’t currently extend to coverage of spouses or dependents.

The district is holding an informational session on the levy at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 via Zoom. Commissioners for the park and rec district’s board and staff members will answer questions from the public. Zoom log-in details will be posted to the district’s website and Facebook page prior to the meeting.

Coutts said people can also contact the district office at any time to learn more about the levy.