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SARC board all in for 2015 levy
The community-owned facility, Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center (SARC), hasn’t received tax funding for the past 12 years, but the SARC board of commissioners hopes that will change.
The special meeting organized by the board concluded with a unanimous vote in favor of a levy question to appear on February ballots to generate funds for SARC maintenance and operation costs.
After crunching the numbers numerous times and countless conversations among one another, the board members are in agreement that SARC needs additional funds in order to stay afloat, Frank Pickering said, chairman of the SARC board of commissioners. The six-year property tax levy of 12 cents or less per $1,000 of assessed valuation would generate a total of nearly $2.5 million.
By the end of this year, SARC Executive Director Scott Deschenes estimates the facility’s reserve funds will fall below $500,000.
“You cannot run a healthy business without maintaining reserve funds,” Pickering said.
Age takes toll
The 26-year-old facility has begun to show its age and critical pieces of equipment, such as the air handling unit, were identified following two studies the board contracted out including an engineering study conducted by city councilman and local architect Ken Hays and the second study done by the director of the Port Angeles pool, Steve Burke.
Replacing the air handling unit, which is crucial to keeping the pool area operational, would utilize about 70 percent of SARC’s reserve funds, Pickering said.
Although the pool is an expensive service to maintain, in the past when SARC has had to close the pool area for cleaning, the facility’s user numbers have dwindled, Pickering said.
“SARC is not viable unless it is a complete entity,” Pickering said.
With aging equipment and infrastructure come more maintenance of operation costs and thus the SARC board is turning to property owners within Clallam County Park and Recreation District 1 to pay on average an extra $26.04 per year.
“We now have expenses that we didn’t have before as SARC is getting older,” Melinda Griffith said, board commissioner.
Former SARC board commissioner David McArthur expressed concern with the amount of the levy.
“Lower the levy to 6 cents instead of 12 cents and show us (citizens) some responsibility with the money instead of putting it in the reserves,” McArthur said. “Take what you need and then come back to us.”
Pickering agreed with McArthur that he too doesn’t want additional reserves and “imagines we’ll see the exact same amount of reserves at the end of the six years,” but Pickering would like to maintain a steady $500,000 in the reserve.
Alternative funding sources suggested during the meeting included potential grants, establishing a planned giving fund, increasing user fees and simply working with less.
“I would appreciate if you would consider other funding sources,” John Lash, a Sequim resident, said during the meeting. “There has to be other funding sources than my own personal pocket.”
Prep for February ballot
In preparation for the upcoming public forum, Pickering said the SARC board will be working together to illustrate to the public the importance of SARC and welcomes the opportunity to speak with any interested group of individuals regarding the levy.
As an additional way to involve the community with the upcoming levy plea, Deschenes may start to hold public tours of SARC to provide people with a better idea of the type of equipment and infrastructure improvements needed.
SARC officials are not alone in their need for public funding, as Sequim School District officials are in the midst of re-evaluating their approach to getting a school bond to pass given their last attempt ended in defeat.
“We proposed too much at once,” said John Bridge, director for the Sequim School District Board of Directors. “We still have the same needs, but we need to tackle them in smaller portions and we’re still trying to figure out how to best do that.”
Although “it would be nice,” Bridge said, Sequim School District officials are not set on getting on the February ballot. The question of a levy for SARC now etched into the February ballot does not make or break whether the Sequim School District officials will also pursue getting on the ballot, but Bridge said the board will take it into consideration.
Sequim School District superintendent Kelly Shea has been occupied meeting with the public and especially those who voted against the bond to revise a passable plan.
“This is a community decision, not a district decision,” Shea said. “Right now we’re trying to create a functional plan that also fits with the direction the community wants us to go.”
Shea’s goal is to provide the board with a preliminary recommendation by the beginning of the upcoming school year to be refined by the board before he gives an official recommendation to the board by fall, Shea explained. Providing a recommendation by fall would allow the board to get the school bond on the February ballot if they so choose, Shea said.
The Sequim School District may be uncommitted to the February ballot for now, but the SARC board made its unanimous decision clear that it will be approaching the voters this February for SARC public funding.
State of SARC meeting and public forum
When: 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 23.
Where: Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center gym at 610 North Fifth Ave.
More info: Contact the SARC at 683-3344 or visit www.sarcfitness.com.
Citizens for SARC to meet
A newly formed campaign committee has been formed and it is Citizens for SARC. Chaired by Susan Sorensen, financial donations to the committee can be mailed to Citizens for SARC, PO Box 36, Sequim, WA 98382. If you are interested in helping with the committee or have questions, e-mail citizensforSARC@gmail.com. A website is planned and will be available soon.