Both Si View Metro Parks propositions deserve our support

It was a bittersweet moment, watching and listening to Minna Rudd dial up support for Si View Metro Parks District.

To be sure, watching one of our last remaining democratic rituals unfold is a heartening sight. In today’s increasingly impersonal, vote-by-mail environment, the phone banks that folks like Rudd run are one of the last person-to-person connections remaining between and among voters.

But it was also a moment of tension. A lot is riding on Si View’s two ballot measures, Props 1 and 2. The two measures—one of which requires a challenging 60-percent supermajority—would preserve the parks district from massive cuts due to the state property tax cap. And yet Rudd’s tool that night—a county registered voter call list—was an imperfect one. So many of the voters had moved, dropped their land lines, even died, that many of numbers that Save Our Si View volunteers were calling were useless.

Still, the volunteers pressed on, wading through the bad numbers, occasionally apologizing to the confused recipient. It was worth it when they got through to a living, breathing voter. Most were sympathetic to Si View’s plight.

Of course, it often took some explaining to understand why Si View is going to the polls. Let’s start with the property tax cap: In Washington, there is a limit to how much property tax you can pay. The cap is $5.90 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Si View  was created eight years ago by a vote of local residents. It’s a junior taxing district. That means it has the lowest priority to claim taxes, after things like fire districts and hospitals.

According to the King County Assessor, the amount of property tax you pay depends on the cost of government—all the schools, roads, fire districts, hospitals and libraries around you. To determine your tax rate, officials divide the total amount of money needed for each district by the total value of property in your district.

As property values have fallen in the recession, tax rates have risen to compensate. Think of it as a balancing scale, or a teeter-totter: since taxes are calculated based on your value, if the value falls, and the total tax burden is the same (or in some districts, larger), the rate goes up, in order to bring in the same amount of tax.

For Si View, the $5.90 cap has been met in one of its four subdistricts. The rates there can’t rise any higher. Si View must charge the same tax rate across its entire district. So, as a result, Si View loses the ability to seek its whole levy across all of its subdistricts, because the legal capacity in one area has been met.

It’s important to note that Si View is not asking for more money. It is attempting to preserve the funding it’s got today.

I support the Save Our Si View campaign, and urge district residents to do so with their votes. You should know that both Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 need to pass in order to maintain Si View at the status quo. Prop. 1 preserves part of the existing levy from the cap, and requires a simple majority to pass.

Prop. 2 has the harder row to hoe. That measure is a temporary, one-year operations and maintenance levy that would backfill the remainder of the Si View budget. It needs a 60 percent “supermajority” to pass.

If Prop. 2 doesn’t pass, Si View’s back-up plan involves unfilled jobs and postponed maintenance and training, keeping cuts at arm’s length from you, the user. But that outcome should sound undesirable to anyone familiar with Si View as a vibrant, growing place, a resource that should be nurtured to grow, not left to wither on the vine.

If there is a heart to North Bend, it’s probably Si View. That community center, that pool and those fields have been the recreational backdrop for three or even four generations of Valley residents. It provides a yearly round of activities that mean a lot to the health and vitality of our community. Let’s not see that end. Now that you have received your ballot, please vote for both propositions in the Nov. 8 election. Keep the heart of North Bend beating strong.

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