• Sharon and Stephen posted an update in the group Group logo of Snowden Community GroupSnowden Community Group 6 months ago

    White Salmon Valley Pool Park District and Property Tax Increase

    We wanted to provide this community with some facts regarding the November 2018 ballots. We will all be voting Yes or No to create a new White Salmon Valley Pool Park District which will immediately be authorized to raise our property taxes by $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed value to be used solely for the White Salmon City Pool.

    This ballot is worded as follows (I added the bold and underline):

    Klickitat County Resolution No. 09418, City of White Salmon Resolution No. 2018-07-472 and City of Bingen Resolution No. 2018-024 jointly propose the creation of the White Salmon Valley Pool Metropolitan Park District (MPD) within that portion of the White Salmon Valley School District limits as now or hereafter established lying within Klickitat County with authority limited to construct, operate and maintain a White Salmon Valley swimming pool. If approved the proposition would create a Metropolitan Park District MPD with the powers provided by 35.61 RCW, including, but not limited to, the authority to levy a maximum of $.75 per thousand dollars of assessed property value with an initial levy rate of $0.25 per thousand dollars of assessed value, and not to increase over one percent per year without further voter approval. The District shall be governed by a five-member Board of Commissioners to be elected at large.

    There has been some information in The Enterprise and other places but we found it difficult to get all of the facts. We spoke to Ashley Post (City Councilor), Dave Sauter (Klickitat Co Commissioner), Brenda Sorensen (Assessor and Election Controller) and various members of the White Salmon Pool Friend’s Group. Here is some important information to consider when you think about this ballot initiative:

    1) This Metropolitan Park District would exist forever, until the voters vote to abolish it. So that property tax rate would NOT go away after X years.
    2) The Commissioners in the Park District can increase the property tax by 1% per year. Any increase over this amount would require another vote.
    3) Almost all of the people running for the Commissioner positions for the Park District are from the city of White Salmon. There is no one running from our area. As noted below 2/3 of the new tax will be from households outside the City of White Salmon.
    4) Based upon reports we saw and discussions we had, this current $.25 /1,000 tax Levy is NOT sufficient to build a new pool. The tax Levy was originally represented to us as only to be used to fund operations and maintenance only. But it is quite clear in the Ballot Text above, the levy of up to .$75 per $1,000 can be used to CONSTRUCT a new pool.
    5) The current estimates to build a new pool range from $2 million to $5 million. The City says they have a pledged amount of $500,000 from an anonymous donor. If additional private donations are not available, the Park District would need to issue bonds (debt) to fund the new pool. This would require an additional vote and would increase the cost to build the pool since the Park District would have to pay interest on such a loan. We could find ourselves with Levy dollars raised and no pool to maintain without additional indebtedness incurred.
    6) There is no analysis we are aware of which says the operating costs require a tax levy of $0.25 per $1,000 of property valuations. For example, we understand this tax will raise about $250,000. The preliminary pool operating Budget shows estimated costs of $267,000–included therein is a “new” category of District Administrative Expenses of $86,000. It currently costs the City about $140,000 to operate the pool. No one could tell us why the operating costs need to increase so much except that the new budget includes having additional administrative costs of $86,000 to administer/run the pool.
    7) Based upon the current property valuations, the new tax will be paid primarily by Klickitat County residents living OUTSIDE the City of White Salmon (66% of the total new tax) and 34% by City residents. The assessed valuation of White Salmon City properties is $300 million, the total valuation of the taxing district is $1 Billion.
    8) Currently the pool operates for 3 months a year. So the operating costs (based upon the new tax) are about $83,000 per month. The current maximum daily pool capacity is 95 people. The new pool district may have a significant population who may not even be able to use the pool.
    9) The proposed Park District was based upon the current White Salmon School District boundaries except Underwood has been excluded. They were included in the prior Mt Adams Park District that failed and were very vocal opponents.
    10) The City of White Salmon owns the land where the new pool will be built and owns the current pool and equipment. No one can answer the question of who will own the new pool.
    11) If the Park District has to issue a bond (debt) to build a new pool, this will require voter approval AFTER the new property taxes have already started. Dissolving this Park District is NOT an easy process.
    12) There is currently no good or final estimate for the design and cost of a new pool. The estimates obtained include a very large range. There does not appear to be a strategy of how to move forward on the project, except to increase the property taxes in hopes that a new pool can be financed and built. This is exactly why the former Mt. Adams Park and Rec district failed. The Last Mt Adams Levy proposal was at $.19 per $1,000 and it included financial support to the White Salmon Pool as well as other worthwhile initiatives. It failed.
    13) The City of White Salmon has spent over $100,000 to date on different pool designs and studies and yet there is still nothing concrete.

    The above information is based upon all of the research we have done. We would be happy to provide any other information or answer questions if we can based upon the information we have.

    • Thank you for your efforts researching and putting together this information. I was supportive of a new pool which I thought was the purpose of the new district. I voted against the Mt Adams Park District because it was not specific enough and did not have a purpose or plan. It sounds like this new effort is similarly unfocused and that is disappointing. And the monthly costs of the pool are ridiculous! I hope you plan to send this to The Enterprise.

      • Hi Sue – I submitted the same information to the editor at The Enterprise right after I posted it here. His response, while timely, was disappointing. He believes it is too early to talk about the cost of a new pool yet he does believe that a vote for the Park District is a vote for the new pool. I asked him why anyone should be expected to vote for the new Park District (and thus vote for a new pool) without knowing the operating costs and construction costs. The Enterprise has reported on the new pool but only about design, etc. They have not reported on any real facts surrounding the process. We plan to write an opinion piece for the paper closer to the election but we will have to see if he will even publish it. There is a pool committee meeting on the 28th that we will attend and see if there are additional facts.

    • Thanks for the numbers, that’s absolutely nuts. $2800 per day to operate a pool?

    • I want to start out with a little list showing how the tax would increase over a 10 year period. It would take a really long time for this to reach the amount represented by $.75/$1K. This was hard for me to visualize but with a calculator I felt better. I am not completely sure of the numbers so any help is welcome. Also to raise it more rapidly, should that be proposed, it would require a ballot measure and the vote of the people.
      Yr1: $25.00/$100K
      Yr2: $25.25/$100K
      Yr3: $25.50/$100K
      Yr4: $25.76/$100K
      Yr5: $26.01/$100K
      Yr6: $26.27/$100K
      Yr7: $26.53/$100K
      Yr8: $26.80/$100K
      Yr9: $27.07/$100K
      Yr10 $27.34/$100K
      Just ball parking it, it would take 20+ yrs to get to about $.50/$1K.

    • Here are thought on the points raised by Sharon & Steve. Thank you for your comments.
      Point #1: Here is the inter-local agreement between the City of Seattle and the recently voted in Seattle Metropolitan Park District. There are provision within the agreement that address termination or ending of the agreement. This may also indicate that the taxing authority will likewise be ended. Not sure. Most taxing district, such as Fire Dist #3, for example, continue in perpetuity because the need will continue. Should the need for the park district end,. Your concern is valid and should be addressed in the ballot measure.
      #2In correct althoug does not state all the details.
      #3 This was an advertised postion, including an article in the paper. I was invited to run and would have liked to do so, but have other obligations. Please consider bring up names of local Snowden people that would like to be on the board. Also, I think that the interests of Snowden are similar or the same as those within the City. I also think that the people running will be very interested in suggestions, information, and various points of view. Please consider contacting them discuss your concerns and to decide who you want to be on the Board.
      #4 I carried that petition around and right in the wording were included the build, maintain and operate the pool. So it was expected that this funding would go to build, not just operate the pool.
      #5 The idea of another levy or bond was not stated in the original petition. This was a problem I found out about at the last minute. It may have seemed obvious to those who originated the petition, but it was not. Also, this seemed to be an issue of fore-thought and transparency about how this would look to those who signed the petition but were surprised by needing to pass a future levy or bond. This shoudl be pursued diligently for explanations and justified. It will piss a lot of people off.
      #6 I think an analysis of the budget is imperative. I want to know more about how they plan to spend the money.
      #7 I don’t really get this point about people outside of the city paying more than those within. This will be a benefit available to all, most likely with a higher fee for the use of those outside the district as HR pool does. We are all in this together. We could have run people for the board and still can in future elections. We just need to agree that a pool is a good idea.
      #8 This should be looked at and justified.
      #9 True. And what is the point. That Underwood didn’t want to have a park district makes sense.
      #10 This needs clarity.
      #11 Is there language in the ballot measure that explains how to terminate the park district and what will happen to the money if that happens. I imagine some of the money might go to retrofit, appropriately, the old pool so that it is usable during the interim. Also some to decommission the old pool when that time comes.
      #12 Correct. But there has never been a secure funding source, so the plans for the pool never were finalized. There is room for redesign and adjustments as needed.
      I have other thoughts but this is it so far. Cooking dinner.

    • Here is the interlocal agreement between the Seattle Park District and the City of Seattle that passed in 2014. Good resource.https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/ParkDistrict/ParkDistrictExecutedILA.pdf