Letters to the Editor

Demand transparency from recreation district | Letters

I have been involved with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District (NWPRD) for more than 17 years. First as a swim parent, next as meet director for approximately 10 years under four head coaches, then as the wife of a district commissioner, again as a member of three previous levy committees and finally as president of the Save the Pool Committee in 2011. I have had intimate knowledge of district concerns for the past eight years.

I’ve known Coach Neil Romney for 10 years and worked closely with him for that entire time. I know him to be a man of impeccable honesty and integrity.

As president of the Save the Pool Committee during the Nov. 2011 election, in which the voters passed the maintenance and operations levy supporting the NWPRD’s mission, my goal was to make sure that each voter I spoke with or handed a flyer to understood exactly what their tax money would pay for. I wanted the community to have clarity before they voted. The taxpayers passed the levy with more than the required supermajority. That supermajority represents the taxpayers’ decision to support the purpose of the district.

Walker’s statements have no such clarity. He stated that the district “diverts” $130,000 to the swim team. This statement is misleading.

The term “divert” suggests redirection of funding that was destined for another target. Walker fails to mention that all district programs are subsidized by the taxpayers, some at a rate greater than 50 percent. Walker also failed to distinguish between the district’s levy and revenue raised by each program. The levy is what the taxpayer’s approved; it is designed to pay for maintaining and operating the district’s facilities. The revenue raised by each program is to pay for all other expenses. North Whidbey Aquatic Club generates more revenue on a percentage-of-total-cost basis than any other district program. The taxpayers’ decision to support this community resource is not a diversion of taxpayer funds.

NWAC is the most successful community outreach swim team in western Washington. The revenue NWAC generates and the impact it has in reaching all youth populations is largely due to the coaching excellence of Neil Romney.

Neil Romney also instituted the district’s scholarship program for low-income families to ensure that all segments of our community could take advantage of the program.

Walker asserts that the financial records are handled with no accountability, yet for the past 10 years, the NWAC accounts have been handled in exactly the same way they are now. The team has a checking account out of which the head coach writes checks for meet entry fees and other legitimate NWAC expenses such as travel, equipment and supplies. A complete accounting of all revenue and expenses is reported to the director and the board each month. With this long-standing system in place, the district has passed every annual audit by the Washington state auditor. Had there been irregularities, the state auditor would have reported them.

The taxpayers do deserve transparency. They did not get it from Walker. They also deserve to know the whole truth. Please demand it of the current board of commissioners and the director they are supporting. The next board meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool.

Julie Wilson
Oak Harbor


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