Publicity splash organized to help North Whidbey Island pool levy

After a stinging defeat at the polls last month, volunteers are gearing up to convince voters that the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District needs to continue collecting property taxes if the swimming pool is to remain open.

District leaders placed a renewal tax levy on the November ballot. They filed the paperwork the day the polls closed on the primary election that saw voters reject the pool levy, even though 56 percent supported the measure. It needed 60 percent to pass.

Leaders for the committee tasked with promoting the levy are busy organizing volunteers and gearing up social media sites to educate the North Whidbey community about the need for the taxpayer support.

Julie Wilson, a member of the Save the Pool Committee, said low voter turnout in the primary along with the inability of many voters to connect the pool with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District levy are a couple of the reasons the levy failed in August. Only 7,247 ballots were cast.

To help voters connect the pool and parks district levy, she is organizing volunteers who participate in the three athletic teams involved with the district — the North Whidbey Aquajets swim team, the running club and the Babe Ruth baseball program. Those volunteers will distribute promotional materials outside supermarkets starting in early October, which is around the time mail-in ballots are sent to voters.

In addition, a website and a Facebook page are being developed to further disseminate information to the community.

“We wanted to educate people about other programs, but for many people, the pool is the centerpiece,” Wilson said about the previous promotion efforts. The numbers back up that supposition.

The renewal levy would bring in approximately $550,000 a year for the next six years and the tax support accounts for 55 percent of the North Whidbey Park and Recreation budget. Approximately 80 percent of is devoted to operating the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool in Oak Harbor.

If approved, the levy would cost property owners 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, about the same as they’re paying now.

Should the vote fail to reach the 60 percent supermajority in the November election, then it would be at least a year before the district could receive levy dollars regardless if voters approve the levy in a subsequent election in 2012.

Planning will start soon for contingencies.

The Park and Recreation District board of commissioners is holding a meeting Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6 p.m. at the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool at 85 SE Jerome St. in Oak Harbor. The commissioners will start making contingency plans should the levy fail again. Thursday’s meeting is one hour earlier than the board’s normally scheduled monthly meeting time to encourage public turnout.

Officials hope voters will realize the importance of the pool and other district programs and finally give their blessing to the levy.


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