On the November ballot, Ferndale voters will get to decide if they want to create a new Metropolitan Parks District, which will raise their property taxes $0.50 per $1000 of assessed value to raise funds for maintenance and improvement of our City parks.
Though I think parks are an important amenity for any city, I don’t think creating another permanent taxing district is the best way to improve Ferndale’s recreational offerings. Our residents have a limited capacity to pay more in property taxes, so we must be careful to only ask them to do so when absolutely necessary.
To pay for specific parks-related projects, I would prefer the City apply for grants or set up a Greenways Levy system like Bellingham uses. Using greenways levies, the Ferndale Parks, Recreation, and Trails Board would work with our residents to determine which recreation-related projects are most important to them, then go to voters with a specific levy request to fund those projects. Residents can either approve or disapprove each levy request on a case-by-case basis. Another benefit of a greenways levy is that they only last 10 years, so the associated property tax increase goes away unless voters choose to renew it with another levy. The cost to send a greenways levy to the voters would also be negligible if the City places it on a November ballot with elected offices and other issues.
Unfortunately, greenways levies won’t help pay for basic maintenance, but individual neighborhoods could do more to help maintain their parks, and community groups could adopt the larger parks (similar to the Adopt a Road program for trash pick-up). Grants like the one the City received to help build Star Park (a playground for children of all ages and abilities that will be constructed next spring) are also a viable alternative, with community partnering an added bonus.
Finally, though I don’t personally think forming a Metropolitan Parks District is the best solution for fixing our parks or creating new ones, I didn’t think I had the right to keep the voters from having their say in the matter, so I voted ‘yes’ to put the issue on the ballot. The choice is yours and I will accept your decision.