“If you build it they will come, but do they want to pay for it?”
In the upcoming November general election, voters will receive a ballot with a lot of decisions to make on it.
In the city of Ferndale, community members will be asked to approve a Metropolitan Park District. The concept of a Metropolitan Park District may be a new one that bears explanation.
This is a new funding source for maintaining, repairing and adding new improvements to our parks system. It can only be used for parks, per state law. Ferndale’s proposed Metropolitan Park District is intended to largely focus on capital improvements – meaning new amenities for the parks system, though it also includes some minor funds to pay for a new parks worker to help maintain our 120-plus acres of parks.
The money would enhance what the city already does with parks – it would not replace any existing funding.
Most of our citizens would agree in the value an adequate parks system brings to a community. Many citizens love our parks and love them a lot! Citizens are constantly asking for increased maintenance and added features to Ferndale parks. As we build more homes with smaller lot sizes, the need for larger green space increases, too.
Any time we ask residents to consider new funding options to better the community, we want to make sure you get answers to important questions:
What is a Metropolitan Park District?
It is a separate legal entity set up as a taxing authority created for the management, control, improvement, maintenance and possible acquisition of parks, trails and facilities.
What would be the district boundaries?
In this case it would be the city limits of the city of Ferndale. A larger boundary was at one point considered but in the end we focused on the city limits. If you’re a registered voter that lives within the boundaries of Ferndale, you would be involved in this decision.
Who will govern the district?
The Ferndale City Council will serve as the Metropolitan Park District Board of Commissioners ex officio. This is the same format as the City Council serving as the Ferndale Transportation Benefit District Board of Directors. The City Council will receive recommendations on the parks system from the city’s Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board. There are currently openings on this board and citizens are encouraged to apply.
Who will decide the Metropolitan Park District yearly budget?
City parks staff along with the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board will present a budget to City Council for approval each year through the adoption of a parks maintenance and capital improvement program. This is a six-year plan, updated annually, that includes planning costs (like feasibility studies or design work) and construction of projects. The first improvement program list received robust public input through Ferndale social media, review by the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board, and was adopted by the City Council recently to ensure voters understood what projects are proposed.
What do you see these funds being used for?
Again, the capital improvement program would be reviewed annually with health community input and review by the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board. The initially adopted list includes a community pool and recreation center feasibility study, Star Park Playground project, rebuilding of the Pioneer Park main stage, a skate park, a fenced dog park with an obstacle course, an interpretative boardwalk along Schell Marsh, improved segments of trails around the city, bathrooms at Vanderyacht Park and outside the fenced in area of Phillips 66 Sports Complex and more.
What funds are available for Ferndale City Parks now?
At present the city budgets about $452,000 per year for our parks and green space. We have two full-time employees exclusively dedicated to parks maintenance. They maintain more than 120 acres of parks, including our large Phillips 66 Sports Complex, which has baseball, soccer, lacrosse and flag football field usage as well as a BMX bike park served by volunteers. Two employees is not enough, however, and so the Public Works crew assists as necessary, and we have part-time summer help. In total we have 3 full-time equivalent positions thanks to the Public Works and part-time help. At least half of this budget, therefore, goes to staff costs. The remaining expenses are for the maintenance and upkeep of parks, including costs for irrigation, utilities, vehicle and equipment replacements, fertilizer, chemicals, Riverwalk fountain supplies and more.
These funds will not go away if a Metropolitan Park District is improved. We need to continue that funding and add to what we’re doing. Our community wants an enhanced parks system, and this is a plan for how to make it happen.
What would the new tax rate be if voters approve a Metropolitan Park District?
Your Ferndale City Council, after a full year of study by the Parks, Recreation and Trails Advisory Board, has recommended a rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This amounts to $10.42 per month or $125 per year for a home valued at $250,000.
This would generate $581,000 annually for increase capital improvements and maintenance in the city’s parks system.
Is there a limit this parks district can collect?
Yes, state law allows the district to collect up to 75 cents per $1,000, but the City Council has committed to a mid-level amount of 50 cents per $1,000. Once the property tax levy rate is set, it can only ever be increased by 1 percent of the budget. So if $581,000 is collected the first year, that amount can only be increased by $5,810 the next year, and the levy rate will be adjusted accordingly.
What does it take to approve this vote?
This would require a 50 percent plus 1 majority vote of our registered voters in the City of Ferndale.
What if this vote does not pass?
The city would continue with its existing funding for parks. We would not be able to grow and improve the parks system to serve the growing population in the way the community hopes for.
What if I have more questions?
Ask them! Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/cityofferndale, get more detail on the proposal at cityofferndale.org/mpd or give us a call at 384-4302. Even better – come visit us face to face and have a chat! It is your park system and your vote.