by Jeff Switzer
At its July 22 meeting (after press time), the King County Council was scheduled to discuss the pending $215 million parks and recreation bond issue, as well as a $30.5 million companion piece maintenance levy, both of which are likely to go before voters Sept. 17.
The Recreation and Conservation Legacy Program, if approved by voters, would provide funds for the county--including cities--to acquire, develop, or renovate parks or open space properties to preserve "critical salmon habitat," as well as renovate existing facilities, provide safe parks, greenbelts, and playfields; enhance water quality; and protect greenways, natural resource lands, streams, and rivers. Nine members of the County Council's Committee of the Whole gave a do-pass recommendation to the full council, including Councilmembers Louise Miller and Maggi Fimia.
On July 15, the committee of the whole passed the $30.5 million maintenance and stewardship levy to the full council without recommendation.
"This maintenance levy is a key component of the Recreation and Conservation Program," said Councilmember Larry Phillips. "It's not enough to simply acquire more land or build new parks."
Phillips says the levy accomplishes that goal through "an innovative and responsible funding strategy" creating an annual $6 million fund for maintenance.
If approved, funds generated by the levy would be retained and invested in federal treasury notes until the bond projects are completed in about five years.
According to the county, the levy is expected to cost the owner of a $150,000 home a one-time payment of $37.50 in 1997, and if the companion bond measure passes, taxpayers will begin making payments on that measure in 1998, projected at $21.50 each year.
"We do not want to find ourselves with new parks and open space that we cannot maintain," said Council Vice Chair Louise Miller, a resident of Woodinville. "At the same time, the accompanying recreation and conservation bond meets a growing emergency for both children and adults in King County. Just ask anyone who plays soccer, baseball, or softball; King County simply does not have enough ballfields for its residents."