DuPont residents express worries over parks district

DuPONT - DuPont owns 11 parks with five more planned, 25 miles of trails and hundreds more acres of green space.

City officials see red ink ahead as the costs of maintaining all that green space pile up, city administrator Bill McDonald told attendees at a town hall meeting Tuesday. The meeting was meant to provide information about a ballot measure that would form a metropolitan parks district for the city.

The 35 people who attended the meeting mostly were wary. Some expressed concern over the potential rise in taxes. Others worried that the measure, which is expected to be on the November ballot, was not well-thought-out.

"I have watched the formation of the Tacoma Metropolitan Parks District, and I have a lot of concern about (DuPont)," said resident Lorraine Overmyer. "I think the council jumped into this way too soon. ... I think we need more time."

DuPont's parks and other open green spaces require mowing, watering, equipment and maintenance, with an annual cost of $559,000, city officials said. That's expected to top $820,000 by next year with the addition of new parks, and possibly be far more in the years to come, they said.

DuPont's property-tax rate is $1.09 per $1,000 of assessed value. A parks district could levy as little as 1 cent and as much as

75 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. Homeowners with houses assessed at $300,000 could see $225 a year added to their taxes if the full tax was assessed.

If the measure were approved, council members would serve as a parks board until others could be elected, McDonald said. They would develop a budget for the parks and set the tax rate. Even at the full rate, the park district's revenue would fall short of need, he said, and a financial partnership with the city would be needed.

"Would this really meet our needs or is it just a Band-Aid?" resident Tamara Jenkins asked.

"The city will still have some responsibilities," McDonald replied.

If voters decide against the measure, parks will have to be scaled down, McDonald said.

"There is no magic solution," he said. "We will come up with the revenue, or we will cut back."