By Ray Peterson
I bought property here in the valley in 1996 and built a house in 2006 to retire and live full time. I also served on the board of the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative for several years. My goal has always been to strive for residents of the valley to be aware of all information concerning infrastructure and to be treated fair economically, whether it was electrical rates and now future taxes.
Whether we really need an over $20-million pool complex is debatable. I will not address that here. I am here to address the formation of an Aquatics District under Proposition 1.
Friends of the Pool had listed four alternatives in their feasibility study to select a funding mechanism for a pool complex costing more than $20 million. They chose a Metropolitan Park District format called the Aquatics District. After further study, I determined this format for a district to be the most toxic to local property owners and renters. It will be especially hard on limited-income folks and senior citizens on social security.
A Metropolitan Park District may under Washington Law 35.61 RCW:
• Tax your property at up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — $300 per year for a $400,000 house, $525 for a $700,000 house, $750 for a $1millon house. Every year. Rents will also raise accordingly.
• Purchase, acquire and condemn lands within or without the boundaries of park district. (Friends of the Pool say they are excluding eminent domain for the Aquatics District,)
• Issue and sell warrants, short- term obligations, or general obligation bonds.
• Issue revenue bonds.
• Petition for the creation of local improvement districts.
• Employ counsel, provide for park police officers, secretary of the board, and all necessary employees. Establish civil service for employees.
• Regulate, manage and control, improve, acquire, extend and maintain, open and lay out, parks, parkways, boulevards, avenues, aviation landings and playgrounds, within or without the park district
• Annex territory.
Friends of the Pool does not have a final design nor a final cost for the future pool, but they will want us to vote on the formation of this very powerful and permanent Aquatics District. Proposition 1 will be on the November ballot if they get enough signatures by Aug. 1, and is specifically for the formation of the Methow Aquatics District.
More importantly, the proposal would create a permanent taxation district that will have several mechanisms for taxing us. We, the voters, will have no further say about it other than to pay our property tax statement. This is also the organizational structure that will allow Friends of the Pool to raise the largest amount of money with the least amount of public input.
Friends of the Pool says the district would be governed by a five-member board appointed by the Okanogan County Commission and the Twisp and Winthrop Town Councils as provided by interlocal agreement approved by the three jurisdictions. Note that this is not an elected board.
Thoroughly study and learn about Proposition 1 and the Methow Aquatics District. For more information, I have a website at http://nopooltaxes.com structured with the laws and commentary on Proposition 1 and the Aquatics District.
Ray Peterson lives in Winthrop.