Bonney Lake parks plan through 2025 is $36 million unfunded
By DANIEL NASH
Bonney Lake-Sumner Courier-Herald Reporter
April 30, 2012 · 4:19 PM
How much would you pitch in to keep park services in Bonney Lake?
The city of Bonney Lake's Park Board will host a Parks Summit Monday May 7 to ascertain the ways citizens would be willing to fund more than $38 million in service needs. Whether potential taxes go to a ballot vote could depend on the number of people who attend.
"The amount and type of participation we have on May 7 will play into whether the council decides to put a funding measure on the ballot for next spring," Facilities and Special Projects Manager Gary Leaf said. "It costs $15,000-$20,000 to put a voter measure on the ballot. So the council wants to be certain parks is something voters care about."
A voluntary survey conducted in 2010 gauged 450 responses to find that the most wanted services in Bonney Lake parks were also the most wanting in terms of funding.
The most desired services among respondents were:
• An indoor swimming pool
• A YMCA or community center
• A sports complex of up to six fields
Leaf noted that different age demographics tended to value different amenities. School-age children, for example, favored ballfields. Parents of younger children favored playgrounds which are inexpensive possible parks improvements relative to other options, he said.
In 2011, the Parks Committee used the survey data to develop a Parks Plan which examined the existing parks and identified future needs through 2025. The City Council approved that plan in December.
The cost breakdown is $14.5 million for a community center—alternatively $12 million and $2.5 million for a YMCA and community building—$6 million for a sport complex, $1 million to $1.5 million for one mile of trail construction, and $2.5 million for an expansion of Allan Yorke Park including a large playfield, BMX course, new sport courts and an amphitheater.
Of the $38.4 million cost to implement the plan, $32 million is unfunded. Leaf's parks analysis identifies four possible fund mechanisms to make up the gap: a park district to be approved by voters, a voted bond, a special levy, and grants; the latter option identified as becoming more scarce.
A metropolitan park district would effectively be a new governing body and taxing entity for maintaining and operating parks. It would require simple majority approval by voters to form. Such an entity could be funded by a property tax levy up to 75 cents per $1,000 property value, to pay for ongoing maintenance of new facilities. A parks district could also offer a voted bond or seek grants, loans, contributions and user fees.
An outright voted park bond would pay for up to $50 million of capital costs in one go, but the bond issuance would be debt the city would eventually need to pay back. A voted bond would require a 60 percent super majority, and a means of funding ongoing maintenance would still need to be created.
A special levy on property values would also require a super majority of votes, and could be used for either capital or ongoing expenses.
At the Summit, the Parks Board will seek input from citizens on all those possibilities. Toward the end, they will break into two groups: the first two design a sport complex, the second to develop a parks campaign strategy focusing on the economic and social benefits of parks funding.
"We don't expect we'll get funding for the whole shortfall after Monday, but we hope to take a chunk out of it," Leaf said.
The Parks Summit will be at 6 p.m. Monday in the Bonney Lake Justice Center on 9002 Main St. E.Contact Bonney Lake-Sumner Courier-Herald Reporter Daniel Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-825-2555 ext. 5060.