May 23, 2024

Letter: Could a parks district with its own property tax rate be the next step?

April 25, 2023

Recently, a city councilor remarked he was voting for placing a measure on the ballot to reassign the food and beverage tax revenue from street repair and maintenance to parks in order to ease the path for a swimming pool, a 25-yard-by-25-meter competition lap pool. All five of the Ashland Parks and Recreation commissioners have ranked a $10 million pool as the commission’s top priority. APRC is speaking about combining $2 million currently in its capital improvement plan and financing $8 million in revenue bonds. At 6.5%, it could be an additional $4 million for interest payments at $800,000 a year for 15 years.

In 2018, Parks attempted to piggyback $3 million onto the Ashland School District construction bond. In early 2020, the council approved Parks’ proposal for a $2.6 million revenue bond for the pool. However, COVID delayed that expenditure because it relied on the 25% food and beverage tax revenue for debt service repayment. In Dec. 2020, a pool design was presented and the cost had ballooned to $4.5 million-$5.5 million.

Now, based on inflation, commissioners’ guesstimate the pool would cost $10 million. They have presented no information regarding expenses to operate, heat and filtrate a pool that would contain three times as much water as the present Daniel Meyer Pool because it would be much bigger and eight feet deep in some areas. This proposal is also lacking maintenance and staffing costs. A new aquatics director and many more lifeguards would be need to be hired.

Another councilor and a former mayor have stated that eventually a parks and recreation district would be proposed. A district has its own tax rate percentage placed on your property taxes. You would be paying an assessment for the city and parks.

APRC’s argument for voting YES 15-214 is that if there is a financial downturn, their department could pivot more easily than others in the city. They could eliminate positions more quickly. However, they will have boxed themselves into a large debt service for the pool with fewer employees. It doesn’t make sense to me.

I voted for all of the previous food and beverage tax ballot measures, including the last one that increased Parks’ percentage from 20% to 25%. Additionally, when the wastewater treatment debt service was paid off revenues would be available to pay for street repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The street repair program would apply to the city’s arterial and collector streets.

I will be voting no on 15-214 to preserve the food and beverage tax revenue for the flexibility to spend on streets and other necessary city projects.

Pat Turner


April 26 update: Changed to say pool is 25, not 26, meters across.

Picture of Jim


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