Editor’s note: This letter has been updated to clarify that $500,000 from year-end budget savings would be spent on parks.
A letter to The Olympian urged Olympians to read the ordinance establishing the Metropolitan Parks District. The ordinance establishes an MPD that can collect up to 75 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, annually about $4.5 million dollars for park and recreation facilities and programs.
What is not on the ballot is an interlocal agreement between the city and the MPD, drafted with the help of “parks advocates” and passed by the City Council, without broad public comment.
This agreement makes the council the MPD’s governing entity with the authority to set rates and institutes long term spending requirements for how current city funds need to be spent for new park acquisitions.
It requires that $3 million from the voter-approved 2 percent tax on city utilities be spent on new parks. In addition, it requires half of $1 million collected from the 1 percent tax on private utilities be spent on new parks.
If the other half of the private utilities tax is not also spent on new parks, the city must take $500,000 from any year-end city budget savings and allocate it for new parks.
The agreement specifies that 11 percent of the city’s annual budget be allocated for the parks department’s programs and facilities.
When Olympia voters consider how to vote on the MPD, they should fully understand how this agreement obligates city funds and decide whether the acquisition of new parks is the city’s highest priority.