Metro Parks Tacoma Calls for Votes for November Ballot Pickup

Osei Trahan-Castillo, 8, practices basketball at the People's Community Center in Tacoma on Monday, March 14, 2022. He comes in every week, Monday through Thursday, to practice for a few hours.

Osei Trahan-Castillo, 8, practices basketball at the People’s Community Center in Tacoma on Monday, March 14, 2022. He comes in every week, Monday through Thursday, to practice for a few hours.

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Metro Parks Tacoma wants to renew its levy to support the maintenance and operation of its parks and recreation.

On the Nov. 8 general election ballot, voters will consider Proposition 1, which would restore the district’s regular property tax to 75 cents per $1,000. Currently, Metro Parks’ levy rate is 46 cents per $1,000 of property assessment.

The levy would fund the operation and maintenance of parks, playgrounds, sports fields, community centers and zoos and would fund safety and security improvements, forest fire prevention, preservation of open spaces and programs for young people and adolescents.

If approved, Proposal 1 would be in effect for six years and the levy rate would not exceed 75 cents per $1,000. The rate would start on January 1. Those within the boundaries of the Park District, which includes the entire city of Tacoma and unincorporated areas around Browns Point and northeast Tacoma, will be able to vote for the proposal.

Voters previously approved a levy of 75 cents per $1,000 in 2010, which expired in 2016. The levy has since declined.

Restoring the levy to 75 cents per $1,000 of property assessment would cost property owners an average additional $11.91 per month in 2023, compared to 2022.

Rosemary Ponnekanti, spokeswoman for Metro Parks Tacoma, said if the tax does not pass, Metro Parks will continue to fund as much as possible from its budget. The independent government agency has relied on one-time federal funding to support some of its programs, and the tax would allow them to continue.

Ponnekanti also said park maintenance and security had become more expensive and the fee would help defray that cost.

The levy would support the development of a new Park Ranger program to improve safety and good behavior in parks, improving lighting, security and alarm systems, inspections, maintenance and repair spray areas, swimming pools, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems, and routine cleaning. and sanitation of park restrooms, community centers and other public facilities. It would support the upkeep and cleanup of over 70 parks and the upkeep of nearly 80 miles of trails. It would fund affordable and accessible care, clubs, sports and activities before and after school through the Beyond the Bell Community Partnership and Club Beyond in Tacoma Public Schools and free memberships for 18-year-olds. and less in all community centers. The levy would also go toward forest protection, which includes managing to care for about 30 percent of Tacoma’s tree canopy and running a volunteer program to maintain forest health.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards will propose a resolution at Tuesday’s city council meeting to show her support for the passage of Proposition 1.

L. Curtis Mehlhaff authored an opposition statement in the official Pierce County Local Voters Pamphlet. Mehlhaff wrote that raising taxes right now is unwise due to rising prices.

“We don’t need to raise taxes to support our parks,” Mehlhaff wrote. “Supporters have offered no evidence to support the argument that we need to raise taxes, let alone double them.”

Yes for Tacoma Parks supporters Ryan Mello, Faaluaina “Lua” Pritchard, and Wayne Willaims wrote that with the reduced levy rate, Metro Parks’ share of the average property tax is about $226 per year to cover all parks, programs and services.

“The 1% increase does not meet the demand of the community,” they wrote. “Cuts are inevitable unless we restore the rate to 2016 levels for operations, maintenance and safety, including frequency of restroom cleaning, lawn mowing, maintaining affordable programs and l improving security.

Liz Moomey covers the city of Tacoma for The News Tribune. She was previously a member of the Report For America corps covering eastern Kentucky for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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