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New Parks Tax on Ballot 6/23/2011
Going against current trends, the Wenatchee Parks and Recreation Advisory Board unanimously voted to advise the city council to pursue the process of getting a metropolitan parks district measure on a ballot. But the board cautioned that placing it on the November 2011 ballot may be rushing things.

Studies are showing that measures like the creation of a metropolitan park district would stand a better chance of passing if placed on the presidential ballot in November of 2012, said Josh Alpert, Northwest conservation services director with The Trust for Public Land. “A metropolitan park district is a wonderful tool but it is fraught with peril in voters’ minds because you are creating a new layer of government,”

Parks Director Dave Erickson noted after the meeting that the formation of a metropolitan parks district has been considered for several years but has taken on more urgency because of Town Toyota Center debt problems.

In a June 8 memo to park board members, Erickson said that city funding for parks and recreation may be reduced or eliminated because of a budget shortfall. City leaders are currently working on a new agreement to help pay off the Town Toyota Center’s $41.8 million debt. If the current interest-only construction bonds are refinanced this year, the city is looking at paying $2.7 million to $2.8 million a year for the next 30 years.

Earlier this month, Mayor Dennis Johnson presented three possible scenarios to the City Council for meeting that debt obligation. All three scenarios included closing the city pool and either reducing or eliminating parks funding starting next year.

To place the ballot on the November 2011 ballot, the city council would have to vote on the measure at its July 14 meeting. The council is expected to consider the park board’s request at a work session July 7.

The ballot measure would require approval by a majority of voter