In our opinion: Parks and rec levy is an investment in community

South Whidbey residents of good conscience should have an easy time filling out their ballot for the Feb. 8 special election.

While the school district’s replacement levy is both vital to quality education and a decreased burden to taxpayers, the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District’s four-year maintenance and operation levy will fund programs, parks, trails and facilities that are part of the fabric of the South End community.

The district is asking for 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $110 a year for the owner of a $500,000 house.

The district has miles of trails, four baseball fields, five variable sports fields, two playgrounds and a skate park.

The district is also known for having interesting and lively classes and events year round. This month residents can play indoor pickleball, take “nosework” and safety classes with their pooches or learn to make botanical jewelry, plus more.

Magic camp, skim boarding lessons and clamming classes have also been popular.

What’s missing is a swimming pool, but parks and rec is working with South Whidbey Parks and Aquatics Foundation to remedy that deficiency.

Voters might have noticed that the parks and rec levy appears different on the ballot than other property-tax requests. Levies for school districts or municipalities, for example, are set to collect a “levy amount” and then the county assessor sets the levy rate — or mill rate — in order to collect that amount of revenue.

Parks and rec districts are different. State law allows the districts to set a regular property tax levy at 60 cents or less per $1,000 of assessed value. As a result, the district doesn’t know exactly what the revenue will be the first year.

This levy amount will be carried forward to the second year of the levy and increased by the 1% growth limit under state law, plus additional allowable increases like new construction. If the assessed values increase more than the 1% limit, the levy rate will be lower than what was initially approved by voters, the Department of Revenue explained.

While times are tough for many people, parks and recreation can make life a little better for an entire community for just a couple of dollars a week.