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Support Magnolia parks and fields tonight at 6PM

June 12th, 2014 · 8 Comments

From Magnolia Soccer Club:

The “Parks for All” measure will go to the voters on August 5th. This will be a challenging vote, but a critical one for Magnolia Soccer Club. If successful, this measure will mean possibly two new artificial turf playfields for our neighborhood and a more stable source of parks funding. If this measure fails, efforts to improve Magnolia’s field inventory will be set back years and we may see significant field fee increases as the City looks to offset lost revenues.

Come support all youth sports clubs this Thursday – 6PM at the Catherine Blaine Elementary Auditorium!

The vote authorizes the creation of a new taxing district, the Seattle Parks District (SPD), which will operate Seattle’s park system. SPD will have two funding sources – a payment from the City of Seattle of $89 million a year (adjusted for inflation) and a property tax of $48 million a year. This tax compares to the current City Parks levy, expiring this year, of $24 million a year.

Magnolia Soccer Club will see two benefits from a successful vote:
Field improvements:
• Magnolia South will be converted to artificial turf and will have lighting system improvements.
• Smith Cove will be improved as a part of the new park that will cover the King County storm water retention project. While no specifics for the playfield are detailed in the SPD plan, the budget appears large enough to pay for new artificial turf. No lights are planned, but this could be added depending on project cost and community input.
• Magnolia North is slated for major drainage improvements and the installation areas of artificial turf (likely baseball infields).
• West Queen Anne playfield (next to McClure) will be upgraded to artificial turf.
• Replacing all of the City’s turf fields over the next 10 years
• A number of lighting and drainage upgrades to fields across the city.

More stable funding:
• The SPD will have its own taxing authority. Once the SPD is established, future levy amounts are not subject to a vote of the public.
• The SPD tax does not “compete” with other City levies that are limited to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The City is running out of levy room; formation of the SPD eliminates the pressure from competing priorities at the City.
• The City has agreed to annually move $89MM, adjusted for inflation, from the General Fund to the SPD to provide for basic operations of the parks system. As we’ve seen, Park’s budget has been subject to cuts when the City’s budget is tight.
• SPD’s taxing authority is 75 cents per $1,000 of AV. The initial tax works out to 33 cents per $1,000 giving SPD room to grow.

However, the creation of a new taxing authority, and the doubling of annual tax collections, while terrific for our young soccer players, makes passage of this measure much less certain than the simple renewal of the parks levy. A tougher vote means the need for support is critical.

This is Magnolia’s best chance to get turf fields:
• After years of talking about various options, this measure gives us the opportunity to see dramatic improvements to our major playfields. For the first time, we’ll have lit turf fields available for late fall & City tournament practices and games as well as drop-in spring soccer practices and games.
• Unlike other Clubs that wrote large checks to get turf in their neighborhoods (Shoreline $100,000, LVR $80,000, Woodland $50,000), Magnolia Soccer is not being asked to chip in to these projects.
• MSC will also benefit from the West Queen Anne project. This will provide a close-to-home location for City Tournament and spring soccer games.

• If the SPD fails, it will take some time for the City to figure out a replacement to the Parks levy expiring this year. That will make it more likely that we’ll see big jumps in field rental rates, particularly for lit fields, as they look to replace lost tax revenues.
• The SPD will have much more budget stability than Seattle Parks does now. This will make it less likely that MSC will see unexpected fee increases.
Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a park district?

A taxing district created for the operation and maintenance of parks. In this case, the SPD will have boundaries that mirror the City of Seattle’s.

Who will govern the park district?

The Seattle City Council will be the SPD’s governing board. There will be an Inter-Local Agreement (ILA) that describes the responsibility of Seattle Parks to provide the services funded by the SPD.

How will the SPD be funded?

SPD will initially collect a property tax of $0.33 per $1,000 of the value of assessed property within its boundaries. Today this equates to $47.9 million. With new construction and increased valuation of property in Seattle, the amount collected at this levy rate will increase to an estimated $53.3M by 2020. The SPD will have the authority to collect up to $0.75 per $1,000 of AV.

In addition, the ILA will require the City to allocate at least $89M a year, adjusted for inflation, from the City’s General Fund to the SPD.

Can the City funding to SPD be stopped?

Yes, if the City Council, by a three-fourths vote, determines that a natural disaster or “exigent” economic circumstances prevent maintaining this level of General Fund support. Parks’ charter revenues (10 percent of certain City fines and fees) will to continue to be allocated solely to Parks.

What about community oversight?

There’ll be a new 19 member Community Oversight Committee consisting of four members from the Park Board, four from other city commissions and seven additional community members. In addition, the SPD will hold regular public meetings just as the City Council does now.

Who’ll run the City’s Parks?

Current Seattle Parks staff will operate and maintain Seattle’s parks as they do now. The difference is that they’ll do so under contract with the SPD and be funded by SPD’s revenues. They’ll operate under the same laws, ethics rules and labor contracts that exist today.

Can the SPD be dissolved?

Yes, if there was a majority vote of the people of Seattle calling for the dissolution of the SPD.

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  • emmakaye

    I can understand your frustration. My problem is – it appears we are leaving the same people in charge of a dept. that is unwieldy and doesn’t work well. Before a business can successfully spin a piece of itself off, an outside audit has to be done. This audit should point out what is working well and what needs improvement, plus a path for putting improvements in place.

    There has been no audit of the Parks Dept. This has to be done before we spin it off into a new entity called the Metropolitan Parks District. Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for failure.

    • Benjamin Lukoff

      I love parks. I would love to give more money to parks. My main problem with this is the creation of a separate parks district. There is no guarantee that general fund allocations for parks won’t head toward $0 if this is passed. If this were another levy, I’d definitely vote yes. As it is, I’m seriously considering voting no.

  • NewsMama

    I’m also voting no. I am not in favor of giving control of the parks to the Seattle City Council. They have not looked into the mismanagement by the Parks Department. Parks received a huge levy last time, and even though they knew about this huge maintenance backlog they are now talking about, they used some of our money to by a bunch of new properties that they had no funds to develop instead of performing some of the needed maintenance. And they purchased several playgrounds that cost more than $300,000 each (Woodland Park Zoo north end and Golden Gardens), even though the playgrounds at these two places had no broken parts and no broken equipment. I want to see the City Council look into the parks department management and make them more accountable for spending our money wisely. Until that is done, I will not approve a parks district.

  • Val

    This article makes it sound like we should all want to replace grassy areas with plastic!

    If passage of this funding is linked to plastic fields, then I feel I must also vote NO in August.

  • Don

    The West QA Play Field and the West Magnolia Play Field North are not apart of the MPD initiative or in the interlocal agreement. These two fields are in the Parks Asset Management Plan which means they are listed projects for future general fund budgets. The West Magnolia Play Field South and the Smith Cove Play Field are not on any list I can find. Smith Cove will have some work done to provide better drainage as a result of the CSO work. One last item. Once an MPD is voted in by a simple majority it can not be voted out, Only its board of directors (the city council) can dissolve an MPD. This information can be found in the RCW that allows for an MPD to be created. The RCW is a simple read should you wish to take a look. RCW Chapter 35.61

  • Drew

    I’m not being snarky – genuine question here – how does replacing grass practice fields with turf ones help our neighborhood? If that’s what parents what their kids to play on (which it’s unclear to me why that would be), then I feel like they should be willing to pay for it (like it seems other neighborhoods have done). Why would that improve our neighborhood or community?

    • Valentijn

      Maybe it’ll help withe mud and standing water?

  • Don

    The reasoning for field turf is with grass fields the average playtime on the field is about 500 hours. The play time of field turf with lights is closer to 2200 hours per year.The maintenance costs per year are about the same. The difference is in the replacement cost. A field turf field costs about $1.2M to install not counting the $500K for lights. The field turf fields are replaced every 8-12 years for somewhere between $800K & $1M. So with field turf you need to take into account the $80K to $100K per year in replacement cost. What you get with field turf is 1500 hours of more use per year. The unfortunate thing is Parks can not provide a per hour cost of use for the different types of fields so a comparison cannot be made as to what is the most cost effective field to play on. On the types of fields, my understanding has been from the advocacy group Friends of Athletic Fields grass is the preferred surface for up to the 11-12 year olds. This is why they have said in the past Smith Cove should stay grass.