An 18-cent levy proposal that would pay for White Salmon City Pool operations and improvements and expire after five years will be on city voters’ 2012 General Election ballot this fall.
The City Council, by a 4-0 vote, adopted an ordinance on July 18 that fixed the property tax rate for serial levy at 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Levy collection would begin in 2013 and end in 2017 if a majority of voters say Yes to the levy in November.
As part of the ordinance’s recitals, City Councilors “determined that it is in the interest of the city to ensure long-term pool funding” and opted to place the “levy lid lift” request on the Nov. 6 ballot.
City Clerk/Treasurer Leana Johnson noted in a July 13 memorandum that accompanied the ordinance the City Pool has relied on donations and grants to stay open the past few years. The levy proposal came to the City Council last Wednesday with the endorsement of staff, the Budget and Finance Committee, and the Parks and Pool Committee.
“The levy of 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for a period of five years will provide the pool with an estimated amount of $50,400 to operate each year,” Johnson said.
If the levy passes, levy dollars collected by the Klickitat County Treasurer for the city will be deposited in a segregated and restricted City Pool Fund. “Any money going into the fund will be used only for the pool and will not be able to be transferred out for other purposes,” Johnson explained in her memo.
The levy proposal came up for consideration last year during development of the 2012 budget, along with levies for the Police and Fire departments. Johnson said Tuesday, “The definite consensus was that the pool levy needed to be brought up for 2013.”
The City Council revisited the pool levy proposal during a retreat on July 16 with regard to preparation of the 2013 city budget.
Noted Johnson, “If the levy does not pass, the council could not see how they could allow the pool to stay open with tax dollars. Therefore, if the levy does not pass, the City of White Salmon would not provide funding for the pool in the budget — it would all come from donations and fees if it were to remain open.”
From 2007 to 2011, City Pool operations and maintenance cost the city an average $75,500 per year. Fee collections in that period averaged $32,000 a year, for a net operating cash flow of minus $43,500. The difference between operating expenses and operating revenues has been made up by donations/grants and General Fund inputs that have averaged $15,700 and $27,800, respectively, over the previous five years. (Last month’s Pig Roast in the Park fundraiser for the pool generated more than $24,000 in total monetary contributions but that income isn’t part of Johnson’s analysis.)
For 2013-17, Johnson projects fee collections will remain static but operations and maintenance costs will rise as a result of inflation. Johnson’s forecast assumes 3 percent inflation for an average operation and maintenance cost of $82,600 — but also no donations or grants going forward — for a net negative operating cash flow of $50,600.
The plan is to make up the shortfall through the property tax levy and city general funds, though Mayor David Poucher said fundraisers will continue to be a part of the revenue mix “to build that fund up some more.”
With the additional 18 cents factored into their tax bills, city property owners would pay an estimated $1.362 per $1,000 annually for five years. That would be $36 more per year on a home valued at $200,000.
White Salmon resident Scott Clements, who sits on the city’s Budget and Finance and Parks and Pool Committees, suggested levy revenue will not be sufficient to cover “the deferred maintenance costs of the aging pool.”
City Administrator Patrick Munyan Jr. agreed with Clements’ assessment — that pool maintenance needs to be addressed because it relates to the facility’s ability to generate operating revenue — but noted the city isn’t willing to make a subtantial investment in pool upgrades at this time because the Mt. Adams Park and Recreation District is looking into developing a larger pool for the area.
“Part of the thought process is to wait and see what the Park and Recreation District is going to do before we go in there and spend a lot of money,” Munyan said.
According to Johnson, city administrators are developing wording for the message that will go in the voters pamphlet and the City Communications Committee chaired by Councilor Bill Werst also is working on promotional materials for distribution at community events and the like “to educate voters about the levy.”