At its May 13 board meeting, Key Pen Parks introduced a resolution for the November general election ballot that would create an operations and maintenance levy against property taxes for all KP landowners.

According to Key Pen Parks Director Scott Gallacher, the board vote to approve the levy launch will probably occur at its June 10 board meeting. “There is no guarantee, however, that it won’t be postponed until July. KP residents are welcome and encouraged to come and speak out either for or against the resolution,” Gallacher said.

A specific dollar figure or percentage collected for the tax will not be discussed until the June meeting.
All five park commissioners agree that the park district will be in dire straights if an additional revenue source is not quickly found.

The ballot issue that created the district also authorized it to collect up to 75 cents in property tax receipts (per $1,000 in assessed value), with simply a vote by the board of directors. KP Parks has never taken that much. Its current authorized “take” is 41.5 cents, but will drop to essentially nothing next year.
For 2013, KP Parks is “authorized” to collect $728,000, but is expected to collect only $600,000 from property taxes. For 2014, the amount collected is expected to drop to between zero dollars and $150,000 (a rate of 0 to 12 cents per $1,000 assessed value).

According to Gallacher, the only other income for KP Parks is a stable $115,000 each year from sales tax and user fees for park facilities.

There are two major reasons for the drop in revenue. One, the economy tanked, along with assessed values and the taxes collected. Two, something called “pro-ration,” where there is a pecking order in who gets the taxes collected, said Mike Lonergan, Pierce County assessor-treasurer.

The state Constitution sets a maximum for property tax collections. The taxes “authorized” for the various taxing governments now exceeds that limit. The alpha dog and beta dog receive their full amount authorized, with the lower priority agencies now shorted.

The priority for the local taxing district, from highest to lowest, is: Pierce County general government, Pierce County roads, Fire District 16, Pierce County Library, KP Parks, and lastly, the Flood Control District, Lonergan said.

Gallacher expects Pierce County to take a bigger bite of next year’s allotment for its general fund and roads, due to pressing needs, which will drop KP Parks’ receipts to near nothing. Fire District 16 and the library have no current plans that would bury KP Parks, even deeper, but that is always subject to changing events.
KP Parks does have approximately $1 million in reserve funds, which could extend its operations another year or so, but a loss of those funds would greatly impact any improvements to the various park facilities.

“If the reserve fund is depleted, facility improvements would essentially cease, along with a goodly percentage of our six employees,” said Board President Greg Anglemyer. “The November ballot will give the voters a chance to let us know if the parks will stay open or not.”

Ballot writers wanted

Writers for the “for” and “against” position statements will be needed for the parks levy issue for the November ballot, if the parks board vote passes. Applications must be received by the county auditor by Aug. 6, with statements due by Aug. 9 and reply statements by Aug. 13. For information, contact Scott Gallacher at (253) 884-9240, or scottg@keypenparks.com.

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