By Ron Perrow
I appreciate the motivation to organize recreation, and I acknowledge and support the concept of recreation as a major player in our Methow Valley economy. However, the proposal to control recreation under RCW 35.61, the Metropolitan Park District statute, by creating a Methow Valley Recreation District (MVRD) is simply the wrong way to do it. Here’s why:
• Unfair tax burden. We should not burden property with a new tax which requires property owners to pay for recreation they don’t use or want, and which absentee property owners can’t even vote on.
For the most part, recreation is an “I want,” not an “I need.” However, we all need/or have needed schools, emergency medical care, fire protection, hospitals and libraries. These are called junior taxing districts. None of these junior taxing districts can condemn property via eminent domain or collect more money unless we, the voters, say it’s OK.
But, RCW 35.61 allows five recreation commissioners the authority to use eminent domain and to put a significant tax and bond burden on us without a vote by the people. That’s wrong.
• A new tax will disadvantage existing junior taxing districts. This fall we are going to vote on several junior tax districts, such as schools and the fire district. I’m afraid a new recreation tax will take away from the passage of a school levy and fire district levy, both of which are much more important than an unnecessary recreation tax.
• The recreation district is unnecessary. Okanogan County has just established a new outlook on countywide recreation with its reorganization of the Parks and Recreation District committee. This committee will now be more of a clearinghouse for recreation projects. This administrative procedure exists right now at the county and does not add the additional bureaucratic expenses a new recreation district is sure to have.
• Why cause a fight? The county’s outdoor recreation plan is for the entire county. A new recreation district complicates decision-making by the county commissioners, and may pit the Methow Valley against the rest of the county.
How will the county commissioners fund any recreation effort in the Methow Valley if a Methow Valley Recreation District is already taxing property owners for recreation? How will there be any coordination between the county commissioners and the new recreation commissioners when the promoters of the MVRD have stated flatly in public meetings that they want nothing to do with the county commissioners?
• We can only afford so much. There are many needs in our community — school district, fire district, emergency medical support and social needs. A new recreation property tax will take support away from these needs. For example, we have numerous kids who don’t have enough food over the weekends. The Cove food bank in Twisp supplies supplemental food baskets to these kids. I’d rather see a program to support hungry kids before we establish a new recreation tax. Let’s leave recreation planning and funding to the folks in county government who have been doing it for many, many decades.
Consider the negative consequences of the Methow Valley Recreation District before you vote, and then vote no. We pay plenty of taxes right now!
Ron Perrow has lived in the Methow Valley since 1979. He owned and published the Methow Valley News from 1984 to 1994, serving as editor for the last few years.
For more of our in-depth coverage on the proposed Methow Valley Recreation District, see this week’s (April 2) related stories, editorials and letters: Candidates’ forum draws packed house, On the record: Recreation district commission candidates have their say, FAQ: Rec district, Editorials, My turn: Pro, Letters to the Editor, and the somewhat related: County commissioners reorganize county fair and recreation boards