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Voters reject parks board, raising taxes

With only 45 percent of voters in support Nov. 4, Measure 3-451 failed to create a new five-member board and give the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District an additional 35 cents in tax revenue per $1,000 of assessed property value in its discretionary general fund. 

The result of the election means the district will not be able to add the new parks, facilities and programs outlined in the ballot measure, and is facing tough decisions about maintaining service levels and funding repairs and replacements of aging equipment and facilities.

“We know people care deeply about parks and recreational programs,” said Gary Barth, NCPRD director. “It’s a challenging time for the district and the community. We’ll need to roll up our sleeves and identify alternatives for trying to respond to growing needs.”

Since voters decided not to create the new district, they also did not elect a new five-member at-large board. There were concerns that the window between the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners’ Aug. 7 vote to refer the matter to voters and the Aug. 26 deadline to file for a seat was too short.

Only three members of the NCPRD Advisory Board tried to keep their seats at the table. These are Bill Bersie of Happy Valley, Susan McCarty of Milwaukie, and present Board Chairman David Noble of Jennings Lodge.

The other eight entrants were: Milwaukie Park Advisory Committee member Tony Andersen, Jeff Erdman of Happy Valley, Terry Gibson of Jennings Lodge, Mart Hughes of Milwaukie, Matthew Micetic of unincorporated Clackamas near Happy Valley, Trish Nixon of Milwaukie, Eugene Whitley of Milwaukie and Happy Valley Parks Advisory board member Suzanne Montalbano.

Some of this 35-cent proposed increase was slated for NCPRD’s currently below-average operation funds to enhance programs and services, and to address its deferred maintenance by increasing capital reserves to repair/replace/refurbish existing park assets.

But some of that 35-cent increase could have gone to support NCPRD’s debt-servicing capacity on a new “revenue” bond to build new park assets. Although it would ultimately be up to the new board to determine how to allocate that additional general-fund revenue among various needs, Barth and the current NCPRD advisory board had some recommendations when and if the new board is elected. 

One scenario discussed was allocating 15 cents of the increase towards enhanced operations and capital reserves, leaving the remaining 20 cents of the increase for debt service for a new 20-year revenue bond, which could be around $25 million at current rates.

If that $25 million were equally distributed roughly based on population, it would be about $8.3 million for each of three zones: the city of Milwaukie and the Clackamas Town Center area; Happy Valley/Damascus areas east of Interstate 205; and unincorporated Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge. As top priorities for using that money, Milwaukie wants to complete the third phase of Riverfront Park construction along with developing a few neighborhood parks; Happy Valley said it would like a community center; and neighborhood groups in the unincorporated area would like a new community gathering spot in the McLoughlin corridor area.

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