Updated – White Salmon Valley Pool Metro Park District
Hello All – We attended the White Salmon Pool Committee meeting this week and obtained some more information about the pool that we wanted to share.
1) The latest cost estimates for a new pool are $1.7 million to $1.9 million. The committee stated that they have private donation “commitments” of $650,000. I don’t know how firm those commitments are. The committee believes they can raise more money from private donations. Otherwise, the new Park District will have to raise funds through a bond (debt). We have other information from Friends of the White Salmon Pool which states that the above estimates do not include pool demolition and removal, paving of the parking lot and demolition of the old bathhouse (see point 2 below) and the bus barn which contains asbestos material. They are “assuming” that these costs will be paid for by the city/community/volunteers. This is a big gap in cost estimates.
2) As noted, the above costs do not include the cost to decommission the old pool (demolition and reclamation costs for the pool and property). We specifically asked what these costs were and who would pay for them – The City of White Salmon or the new Park District. No one wanted to answer the question. They finally said that the City and the Park District would have to enter into an agreement about the old pool that would also cover these costs. According to the editor of the Enterprise, these costs are estimated to be $300,000. According to the 2016 Land Swap agreement between the City and WSVSD, the City is obligated to remove, restore and replace the “swapped” land. The editor believes this will be the responsibility of the City; however, the City Treasurer would not say this and stated there would be an agreement with the Park District to determine who pays for this. This could end up being added to the cost of a new pool.
3) We obtained the 2018 pool expenses and the estimated budget for the new Park District for 2019 that was used to come up with the $0.25/1,000 tax levy. 2018 expenses are $171,612. 2019 estimated expenses (assuming the MPD passes) are $227,221. Included in the $227,221 budget is $86,479 of “district expenses”which are new for 2019 and include district manager part time, legal counsel, commissioner compensation and other (insurance). The Park District would collect $250,000 in taxes and $46,000 in usage fees. Based upon this information, creating a new Park District for operating the pool (without any new pool construction/design costs) will cost more than when the City operated it. Same pool, same location, same usage—more costs.
4) In looking at the City’s 2018 budget for the pool, they have revenues and expenses which both total $171,612. The revenues are from the City special property tax levy of $0.18/1,000 of property assessments and this raises $61,926 for the pool. The other revenue comes from a beginning balance from the prior year of $22,000, usage fees (entrance fees and lessons) of $46,174 and a transfer of funds from the City of $38,323.
If the Park District passes, then 100% of the estimated pool costs of $227,221 will be paid by the new tax levy versus the $61,926 paid currently by the special City property tax levy. The winner is this scenario is the City of White Salmon who will no longer have to fund anything.
5) The City employee at the meeting confirmed that so far the City has spent about $283,000 to date (2015 – 2018) for architects, consultants and attorneys related to the pool. During this same period the City spent $18,128 for repairs and maintenance to the pool facility. As of this date no final pool design has been agreed upon. Also, per the financial reports of the City less than $2,500 has been donated to the pool from 2015-2018. Given the number of users and the movement to establish a MPD for this “crucial” endeavor, there seem to be little grass roots support through actual donations.
6) The City employee stated that the City and the Park District will need to sign an agreement for various operating and management issues related to the continued operation of the old pool and the development of the new pool. For example, old pool decommissioning as mentioned above, use of land for old or new pool (the City owns the land and the current pool), use of City services, etc. I don’t know if this will result in additional expenses to the Park District, nor has anyone quantified the magnitude of these costs.
7) It was suggested that the way to facilitate the operation of the new MPD and resolve the issues between the City and the new MPD, would be to enter into an “Interlocal Cooperation Agreement”. Such an agreement would permit the City to continue to operate/maintain/administer, etc. the Pool and related facilities to be reimbursed by the MPD. Such an agreement has not yet been agreed upon. The Committee was hesitant to discuss this issue other than to say that agreements between the City and the MPD will be necessary. It will obviously be one of the first issues the MPD will need to resolve. Unanswered questions about what the agreement will entail and the costs passed to the MPD are crucial factors to consider.
8) The ballot process is closed and it is too late to enter anyone else for a commissioner spot. All ballot measures usually have a Pro and Con statement in the voter information packet. There will be a Pro statement in the packet but no Con statement and it is too late to submit anything. The last minute timing of the process just did not permit voices from both sides of the issue to be heard. The Ballot measure, as presented, does not contain any financial information about pool operations or estimated costs for construction or future operations. The Ballot measure merely establishes the MPD and a funding mechanism (tax Levy) to allow the MPD to study alternatives and spend money to come up with a plan. Keep in mind the City and the Mt. Adams Park and Recreation District have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with no tangible results—except—a ballot measure to raise and spend more money.
9) It was mentioned that all 3rd graders have a water safety course at the pool in the month of March. This is about 90 students per year. The water safety course is not a how to swim class but how to float, what to do in an emergency, etc. So there is an educational component, but minor in comparison to overall pool operations.
10) Pool Usage Statistics – Using the 2018 budget and the current entrance fee of $3, we estimated that there are about 8,000 pool users per season (that is about 90 per day, which is about maximum capacity). That means it costs about $28 per person to operate the pool or approximately $75,000 per month (using the $227,000 Budget above) to cover the annual expenses. These are only estimates. (We have specifically requested current year user statistics so we can more accurately calculate In-White Salmon vs Outside White Salmon users and daily pool capacity)
10) The City and the 4Whitesalmonpool folks will be including a fact sheet on their websites soon about the Park District and the pool. The City is supposed to stay neutral in this process due to election rules. We will see which facts they publish.
11) None of the information presented thus far has addressed—in concrete specific terms—what a new pool will cost and how will it be funded. What is known however, is that the initial Levy rate of $.25/1,000 AV will just about cover the costs of the continued old pool facility operation and the administration of the MPD. So, long-term the Levy will need to be increased or all of our assessed valuations will need to increase to cover these yet to be quantified costs.
12) With regard to 11) above the City Employee at our meeting suggested that it was unclear at this date whether, even with the Levy passage, the Pool could operate in 2019 due to safety and related issues.
13) We also wanted to clarify some earlier information. First, the MPD can be dissolved and liquidated—it would require a vote and agreement by the Commissioners. Second, a misunderstanding about the Levy rate and future increases. The rate of $.25/1,000 cannot increase beyond 1% annually without another vote. But, keep in mind that this is a Levy rate tax tied to Assessed Valuation. So for example if your current Assessed Valuation is $300,000 then your initial tax is $75. If in year 2 Klickitat County raises the valuation by 20% (which was the case for many last year), then your new tax based on $360,000 value is $90 or an absolute dollar increase of $15 or a % increase of 20%.
14) Lastly, we expressed our personal beliefs to the Committee that our community might benefit more from spending $300,000 annually on other pressing social needs, not the least of which being Senior Services, Diversity Programs, Drug Prevention, Minority programs, After School Learning, etc. In our own backyard “Up Snowden” we could use the funds to improve our access to technology (true broadband) and cell phone coverage. $300,000 could also mean an annual raise of $3,500 for each of the 70 teachers in the district.