Like the majority of the voters, I voted yes on the six-year tax levy proposed by SARC in February. I thought this temporary tax would give SARC time to get its finances in order and work with the community to prepare a broadly based MPD proposal that would provide needed facilities and services in addition to a pool.
However, I will not be voting for Proposition 1 because it is a completely different animal. The SARC MPD would create a completely new and powerful local government run by and for SARC members and supporters and paid for by taxpayers — the vast majority of whom are not SARC members. That is why the petitioners named this new government the SARC Metropolitan Parks District!
This new bureaucracy, if approved by the voters, would be created to run a pool and a health club and would have the following powers:
1) Legal ability to levy up 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value in property taxes without a vote of the taxpayers. A levy at this rate would generate approximately $2,700,000 annually.
2) Incur debt on behalf of the taxpayers through bonds and loans — again without a vote of the public.
3) Condemn and acquire private property through eminent domain by a vote of the new board.
Is this new bureaucracy with all of these powers really necessary just to keep the current pool open? Why would the current SARC board and members propose such a solution to their pool financial deficit? I believe the answer to that question lies in the irony of the state law.
You see, in order for SARC to get a temporary one-year property tax levy approved by the taxpayers, state law requires a 60 percent approval by those voting. However, this new SARC MPD, which has the ability to levy the property taxes forever, only requires 50 percent voter approval.
Seems to be a loophole in the law that SARC members want to take advantage of. Can you blame them? Getting new taxes approved by voters is tough!
Not to worry though. I understand the SARC slate of candidates for the board of this new local government have said “read our lips” if elected, we only plan to levy 12 cents per$1,000 assessed value,
or $440,000 in new taxes, annually. These “election promises” are not legally binding on any board members elected in 2015 or in the future.
Let’s find a more reasonable and less expensive way to keep the pool open. Do we really want to give this power to a new, yet to be elected, board of SARC members and supporters? I don’t think so — I will be voting no on Proposition 1.
Steve Burkett is former city manager for the City of Sequim.