ROBERT L. SPINKS, MA, MS
A New Metropolitan Parks & Recreation District for Sequim? Published on Wed, Sept 15, 2010 by Robert Spinks, MA, MS http://www.sequimgazette.com/spinks
Downsizing government is not just a political slogan often trumpeted by the energized Tea Party across the country. It is becoming a reality driven by declining tax revenues that is facing government at all levels. The sad reality is that holding the line on government spending does not mean keeping the status quo either; it means cutting services and jobs.
A third option was to look at a citizen votedin junior taxing district.
If Union contracts require cost of living and step raises, if medical insurance rates grow at double digit rates as they may and if the cost of fuel, supplies and services rise faster than tax collections, then government will be forced to cut. At a recent Noon Rotary Club meeting, Sequim City Manager Steve Burkett reported that initial estimates for the City‟s 2011 budget forecast a $400,000 short fall.
At the Sequim City Council meeting on June 28th, there was discussion on “evaluating options to improve parks and recreation services.” That discussion included expanding parks and recreation services and a status quo option as well as expanding a City program which would entail adding staff and fees and competing for a larger portion of the general fund budget.
If there is anything good about the current recession it is the pressure it places on local government to redefine its roll. Government trying to cut costs is somewhat of a foreign language because every program and every service has some type of constituent base. We can all debate what is or isn‟t a „core service‟ of government. Police, fire, water, and sewer – we could probably agree that those are core services. The finance folks at City Hall, just like in private business are
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critical to make things run. The same with having a Human Resource Manager, the computer guys and of course a lawyer. A new taxing district or a new and expanded recreation department for Sequim? Pitting new costs against core services in a recession will provide a healthy discussion as the budget process is rolling at City Hall. Growing new programs and services in the current environment may be a task for a future time. We all want those great livability benefits that go along with parks and recreation programs, but maybe those services already exist in Sequim. There was a simpler time when these types of „non-core‟ community services were funded, built, staffed and maintained by civic groups, club, even businesses and churches. Maybe now is a good time for local government to be a better facilitator or broker among existing community players instead of trying to fund new services, new employees and more government. This also requires local government to play with and not dictate to its constituents, to reduce obstructions and to adopt a „can-do‟ attitude. Now „can-do‟ may not mean funding, but it may mean facilitating bringing people, groups and organizations together to publicize recreational opportunities that we already have.
District #1 is a Junior Taxing District, as defined by the State of Washington. Junior Taxing Districts receive no monies from the State, County or City but do have the power to levy an excess levy for operating funds or for capital outlay when approved by more than 60% of the voters. Since 2002, the District has been self supporting, imposing no property taxes. Other resources currently include the school facilities, the existing city park lands, and some of the best recreation programming for kids is available through our local Boys and Girls Club. The Sequim Senior Activity Center is a busy and growing center of activity as well. Instead of a growing city department or a new layer of government taxing us all, we just need better communication and coordination to bring together what we already have. Add some help and support from the business community, clubs, and faith based organizations and we might see real community ownership with common sense and cost efficient operations without rising costs that government can sometimes bring. Let your City Council hear your thoughts, you can click to send them an email at: http://ci.sequim.wa.us/contact.cfm .
Robert Spinks is former Sequim chief of police. Reach him at email@example.com.
With a new Marketing and Communications Manager now on the City payroll, there‟s a resource to centralize recreational news and announcements. Sequim already has the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center (SARC), which is actually Clallam County Park and Recreation District #1 and was established in 1962. Clallam County Park & Recreation Page 2 of 2