Recreation levy goes before Blaine, Birch Bay voters - once more

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 26, 2013 

2013 elections

MCT

BLAINE - For the third time in recent years, voters in Northwest Park and Recreation District 2 are being asked to approve a property tax of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for recreation and to preserve natural areas in their part of Whatcom County.

The levy request went before voters in November 2010 and November 2011. It failed both times, falling just short of the required super majority.

The measure goes back to voters once more Nov. 5.

Only registered voters in Blaine School District, minus Point Roberts, can vote on the levy. The school district includes Birch Bay.

If approved, the four-year operating levy would bring in a little more than $305,000 a year. The owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would pay $20 a year.

That comes out to just $1.66 a month for the average property owner, supporters said, and would be a dependable funding source for a district that provides programs ranging from art classes for children to a popular Zumba class three times a week for adults.

The district's voters last approved a levy in 2007 for two years, and commissioners allowed it to lapse for a year because of the poor economy.

So 2009 was the last time property taxes were distributed to the district, totaling $355,380.

They've stretched the funding, but can't any more.

"They can't continue to function without another levy," said Kathy Berg, who is part of the NW Park & Rec. District #2 PAC pushing for its approval.

Ted Morris, chairman of the district's board of commissioners, hopes the levy will pass this time - with the economy improving, more people knowing about the district, voters perhaps swayed by the district's lean operating model with most of the organization run by volunteers, and a small ballot so the measure isn't overlooked.

If it fails, the commissioners will re-evaluate.

"We'll try to keep going as much as possible with our partnerships and programs that are able to sustain themselves," Morris said.

In addition to programs, district commissioners count among their achievements installing a playground at Bay Horizon Park, taking over the lease for the park's gym, and making improvements to the gym (at a cost of $153,000 for the district) to turn it into an activity center, in collaboration with Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department.

The district also worked with the city of Blaine on the Portal Way Trail project, Marine Park birding shelters, Hughes Bayview Park and the Dakota Creek kayak launch.

Levy approval would allow future projects, such as safe bicycle and walking trails around and between Birch Bay and Blaine, and a sports field at Bay Horizon.

The measure needs a super majority to pass. That means 1,847 of the district's registered voters must vote yes. Once that threshold is reached, a second requirement kicks in - at least 60 percent of the overall votes must be a yes.

To learn more about the district and recreational plans, go to nwparkandrec.org.

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE

This is one in a series of articles on races in the November general election. Other articles are at BellinghamHerald.com/elections.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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