It’s levy renewal time for North Whidbey Parks and Recreation

Emily Hugger, 14, prepares to participate in the Aquajets practice Monday at the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool. The Aquajets are one many groups that use the tax-supported pool.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Emily Hugger, 14, prepares to participate in the Aquajets practice Monday at the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool. The Aquajets are one many groups that use the tax-supported pool.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Over the past 10 years, the number of people using the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool more than doubled.

The increase in swimmers is one of the reasons North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District leaders hope voters will approve renewal of its operations levy in August.

Voters will decide Aug. 16 whether to renew the levy, which will bring in an estimated $550,000 a year. It will cost property owners 17 cents per $1,000 assessed property value.

Craig Carlson, executive director for the district, said the amount the levy would raise is similar to the amount collected in recent years. He said the levy rate currently stands at a little less than 16 cents. When voters approved the current levy six years ago, it was at 18 cents and has declined ever since.

He said the slightly higher rate projected rate stems from declining property values throughout the county. The higher rate is needed to maintain the Park and Recreation District budget. The proposed levy would last for six years and needs to pass by a 60-percent supermajority.

The half million dollars raised from taxpayer support accounts for approximately 55 percent of the district’s funding. The remainder  comes through user fees.

“The levy makes it to where our programs are affordable to everyone in the community,” Carlson said.

The number of swimmers using the pool has increased from 54,869 in 2000 to 117,619 in 2010. Carlson estimates the pool comprises approximately 80 percent of the Park and Recreation District $994,000 budget.

Carlson, however, was quick to highlight some of the other programs the Park and Recreation District offers, including a dog walking park, roller hockey, assisting with the youth and adult sailing program, and a running club that boasts participation by 60 children.

“We feel like we’ve provided a good product to the community,” Carlson said.

He said the pool is well maintained, citing the recent installation of ultraviolet disinfection system, which has helped minimize the chlorine smell. He also pointed out the district doesn’t currently carry debt.

The renewal of the district levy takes place during the Aug. 16 primary election. Carlson said running the levy during the primary helps minimize election costs and still provides time to go before voters again should the renewal levy fail.

A levy committee is forming to promote the measure and provide information to community groups.

Carlson said the community has supported the district for nearly 30 years since the pool was built and hopes that the community will continue supporting the levy.

“It would be very difficult to keep the facility open,” Carlson said, if the levy is rejected by voters.

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