Seattle Parks District Board plans for $108M parks levy; would double the tax | Northwest

(The Center Square) – The Seattle Parks District Board discussed how to spend a new six-year levy that would double park taxes for property owners on Monday.

Members of the Seattle Central Staff presented the anticipated funding plan elements of the upcoming renewed levy to members of the Seattle Parks District Board. In total, an estimated $108 million is requested for annual funding starting in 2023.

The biggest percentage of the funding would go towards continuing current initiatives. The cost for that piece is estimated at $58 million.

Another $30 million is requested in new investments. The list includes restoring parks, facilities and trails; increasing access to restrooms within Seattle parks; expanding youth employment and mentorship; and responding to climate change.

Seattle City Councilmember and District Boardmember Alex Pederson explained his concern for the costs this proposed budget could have on property owners.

“To pay for all of the things [in the proposed budget] would require doubling the property tax portion for the Parks District that people currently pay,” Pederson said in the meeting. “And so I’m concerned about that, especially for people on fixed incomes, especially the fact that these landlords can pass these costs onto renters if the market will merit.”

Members of the Seattle Central Staff said that the average cost for the average household in Seattle would go from $155 to about $307 on an annual basis if the levy is passed.

The levy is estimated to increase the annual budget every year with the final year being up to over $131 million a year in funding. The homeowner impact would rise to $411 a year by 2028.

One aspect of the proposed levy that was discussed in Monday’s meeting was the disappointment with Seattle park bathrooms.

“I think we can safely say that bathrooms in our parks and spaces, particularly during the pandemic, have not been consistently or reliably open or maintained,” Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis said.

Lewis went on to say he wants the bathrooms to be reliably clean, safe and open. He questioned if $794,000 in evening and second shift maintenance that is part of the proposed $2.2 million dedicated to improving restroom access is a sufficient investment for consistently clean park restrooms.

Frustrations with aspects of how funds are handled with Seattle parks are nothing new. Along with unkempt bathrooms, the Parks Department changed their tune from a proposed six-year spending plan prioritizing renovations of the Green Lake community center rather than a complete rebuild of it. A complete rebuild is estimated at $120 million compared to a $50 million renovation plan that is part of the proposed levy starting next year.

The Seattle Parks District Board will meet again next Monday for further discussions of new options for the upcoming levy.