Vancouver rejects dedicated tax for parks, recreation

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A dedicated funding stream for parks and recreation was rejected Tuesday by city of Vancouver voters.

The proposed property tax levy would have been 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which equals $70 a year on a $200,000 home.

Early returns released Tuesday showed the measure failing by a wide margin, with 66 percent of voters saying "no."

Roy Heikkala, chairman of the Committee to Save Vancouver Parks, said Tuesday that voters made it clear they did not want to spend additional money on parks.

"It's very disappointing, but the people voted that way. That's all we can do, is to move on from there."

The Vancouver City Council decided in June to send the idea to voters after discussing it at 13 public meetings since early 2010.

Since 2008, the number of full-time employees at the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department has been cut in half. Parks funding accounts for approximately 6 percent of the city's general fund, down from 10 to 11 percent.

The money would have gone to improve and maintain city recreation facilities, parks and trails. Needs include repairing community center floors, locker rooms and HVAC systems, replacing worn fitness equipment and improving customer lobby areas, playgrounds and sports courts.

Youth and senior programs that have been cut could have been restored.

The city council currently budgets $8.7 million for parks and recreation but doesn't have all of it funded. If the levy had passed, the city council could have cut some funding to parks from the general fund and instead use that money for other public services, such as police and fire.

The city raises about $4.4 million from parks and recreation fees and charges, and the city council has opted not to increase those prices.

More than 1 million visits are made to city recreation facilities every year.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.

Proposition 1: Parks - Clark County results 2012