Park Board puts Metropolitan Parks District on April ballot

Now it will be up to the voters.

The Bonney Lake Park Board on Nov. 19 voted to recommend to the city council that the city place a metropolitan parks district on the ballot in April.

The board also recommended the city council serve as the first directors of the district, as opposed to holding a separate election for new leadership to run the district.

A metropolitan parks district is the administration and council’s favored way to provide a steady and specific stream of revenue for park projects.

If approved by a majority of voters, the park district would allow the district – which would contiguous with the city’s borders – to levy a tax that would be used only for parks. The maximum levy allowed by law is $0.75 per $1,000 assessed home value, though the discussions have centered on a tax a little more than half that amount.

The decision by the parks board to support the measure comes after four council workshops in the matter was discussed, a joint meeting between the council and the park board and discussions at every meeting so far this year of the city’s parks board, which serves as an advisory board to city council on park matters.

“This is the culmination of a lot of discussion,” Facilities and Special Projects Manager Gary Leaf said. “They’ve been discussing it all year.”

Prior to the joint meeting with the council, there was discussion about what the make-up of the park district would look like, with some members of the park board and public calling for a newly elected body to govern the district.

Council members, however, favored using the city council to govern a parks district because, they said, the council is not only in tune with the direction the city will be going. It is also less expensive because a park board would receive salaries and the council would not. Also, any funds provided to the district may take at least a year before they come in and the city council can loan the park district money to get started early.

No park money can be used for non-park related projects, however, and can not be transferred to other funds.

The park board made the recommendation with a 4-1 vote with one abstention, chairman Darren Proctor, whom Leaf said regularly abstains during votes. One member was absent during the vote.

Leaf said the member who voted against the recommendation, Jamie Trejo, did so not because of opposition to the district per se, but because he does not believe the time is right to run a ballot measure.

“It’s a pretty good consensus,” Leaf said.

The next step will be a resolution of the city council, expected Dec. 4, calling for the election in April followed by a vote on the official phrasing of the ballot measure in January.

The council is also expected to create for and against committees and develop an overview project list to give voters a better idea of what they plan to do with the money if the district is approved.