The question that the voters in the Sequim School District need to answer in February 2015 is, “Should this community have a public community recreation center that includes an indoor pool?”
For the many residents who have relocated here in the past 13 years, you may wonder, “Why does SARC need money now? I have not been paying anything for the past 13 years and I don’t use the facility.”
As a quick review, Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center was built 26 years ago when the local community decided that an outdoor pool that was open three months out of the year was inadequate. Funds to build the original facility were obtained from a bond issue passed by the voters, plans were drawn and the pool, gym and racquetball courts were opened to the public.
Since the initial opening in 1988, two expansions have been added to better meet the needs of the users. SARC was created to serve the entire community.
You will be asked in February 2015 to make a difference for the sake of the community. The requested levy amount will be 12 cents per $1,000 of (assessed) property valuation for a period of six years and generate about $2.5 million. For example, if you live in a home valued at $300,000, you would pay $36 a year for six years.
According to Tom Montgomery, a Realtor with John L. Scott, SARC is one of the key community features that buyers consider when deciding whether to relocate to Sequim or someplace else. A continuing flow of incoming buyers is essential to the protection of property values. For those on limited Social Security income-only residents, tax exemptions are available.
SARC is a junior-taxing district, like the library and fire department. For the first 13 years of operation, SARC received levy money to offset the cost of operating the facility. Since 2003, SARC has used over $100,000 per year from the reserve account to balance the $1 million annual budget. SARC has not received any funds from the city, county or state during the past 13 years.
This mixed use facility receives over 250,000 visits a year and has over 3,000 passholders. SARC hosts the Sequim School swim teams and in the past year alone has taught over 600 students how to swim. The fees paid by the users cover about 80 percent of the cost of operating the facility, which is much higher than the national average of 65 percent over-the-counter revenue for mixed use facilities.
SARC is within walking distance of retirement residences, medical facilities and the school campus. It is the only facility where you can find a post-cardiac patient doing exercises at the same location as a second-grader taking swim lessons!
If nothing is done to change the financial status of SARC, SARC will not be able to present a balanced budget to Clallam County for 2017. SARC could close the doors in December 2016. That would be the end of the community facility that was built with tax dollars and would terminate the community support of swim teams, swim lessons and the presence of a public recreation center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
The levy funds are earmarked for replacement of the original air handling unit that removes chlorine vapors from the pool area, removal and replacement of the exterior vinyl siding, roof repair and also reinforcement of the interior pool shell. All these repairs must be done to maintain the structural integrity of a 26-year-old facility.
Additionally, there are presently more energy efficient options available now than when SARC was built so the initial investment would save money in the long run.
As an organization created to serve the community, SARC keeps fees at an affordable level to best serve the community and reduce the tax burden on the voters. Now it is your decision … should this community have a public community recreation area that includes an indoor pool? Please vote yes.
For more information, see www.CitizensforSARC.com or find us on facebook.
Susan Sorensen is a former member and president of the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center’s board of directors.