Following a recommendation to fund a $270 million maintenance backlog to city parks, Mayor Ed Murray is backing a new tax to foot the bill.
Earlier this month, Murray announced his proposal to establish a metropolitan parks taxing district that would soon go before the City Council, and, if passed, require voter approval. The measure would raise $54 million annually through a property tax to repair and upkeep Seattle parks, community centers, and destinations like Woodland Park Zoo and the waterfront aquarium
The mayor’s plan also aims to keep community centers open longer, fund facility upgrades, and potentially acquire more community centers, according to an outline of the proposal. The measure would additionally, “expand programming for seniors, people with disabilities and underserved populations,” as well as the development of fourteen new parks, and “provide funding for an urban parks partnership model to promote creative collaborations in downtown to activate parks with a focus on safety.”
Following recommendations made by the Parks Legacy Plan Citizens Advisory Committee (PDF), Murray sent the legislation to the city council March 18. “The model, [is] implemented in sixteen jurisdictions already in Washington,” he said.
If the proposal passes, homeowners with houses assessed at $400,000 would pay around $14 a month towards the metropolitan parks district, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal:
The mayor’s proposal initially would raise $54 million in funding, allowing the city to begin to tackle a near $270 million backlog in maintenance to parks and community centers — roughly 300 projects in all — and to restore or expand popular community programs cut back during the recent recession. The plan largely reflects the recommendations of a city Parks Legacy Committee, which sent its proposal for a taxing district to the mayor at the end of February…
The city council would operate as the taxing district’s governing body, and a citizens oversight committee would review the work.
The Seattle Weekly outlines the fiscal side of the legislation that may impact some of the city’s 26 community centers and 465 parks:
The park district will be a junior taxing authority with the ability to levy up to $.75 per $1,000 of assessed value. The Mayor’s package would tax homeowners at a rate of about $.42 per $1,000 of assessed value and collect about $54 million a year. It would cost the owner of a $400,000 home in Seattle about $14 a month, or around 50 cents per day.
“We understand that a safe, active, and accessible parks system is an essential part of a healthy, vibrant, thriving city,” Murray said in a statement.