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Parks Legacy Plan Citizens' Advisory Committee
Parks Legacy Plan Citizens' Advisory Committee Final Report
Mayor's Proposal

Select Committee on Parks Funding

Parks Funding


The Select Committee on Parks Funding will review recommendations from the Parks Legacy Citizens' Advisory Committee for a package of parks and recreation services and funding options for implementing that package. This City Council Select Committee (comprised of all nine members) will deliberate and make a final decision on whether to send a proposal for parks funding to the voters for consideration in the August election.

Chair: Sally Bagshaw

Members: Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, Nick Licata, Mike O'Brien, Tom Rasmussen, Kshama Sawant


Committee Agendas (Sign up for Agendas)

Agendas Before February 2015


FAQ on Mayor Murray's proposed park district funding plan
March 28, 2014

Q: What is a park district?

A: A park district, also called a metropolitan park district, is a taxing district created for the management, control, improvement, maintenance and acquisition of parks, boulevards, and recreational facilities.

Q:What would the park district boundaries be?

A: Park district boundaries will mirror the boundaries of the City of Seattle as they currently exist or as they may exist following future annexations.

Q: Who will govern the park district?

A: The Seattle City Council will be the park district governing board (District Board). The City Council will not receive additional compensation as members of the District Board. There will be an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) that describes the responsibilities of Seattle Parks and Recreation (Parks) for providing the services funded by the park district.

Q: What is an Interlocal Agreement (ILA)?

A: It is a legally binding agreement that commits Parks to implement projects and use the funds collected through the park district for the programs, projects and services described in the ILA. The ILA requires oversight, reporting and public review of spending priorities. The ILA will be adopted by the the District Board, the City Council and Mayor.

Q: Who will provide oversight on how Parks spends taxpayer dollars?

A: The ILA will require Parks to form a Community Oversight Committee to provide advice and oversight for park district services. The committee will consist of 4 representatives from the Park Board plus seven additional community members. The Oversight Committee will advise the Mayor, City Council, Park Board and department on spending and activities, including:

  • Making recommendations to the Parks Department Superintendent on annual allocation of the Major Projects Challenge Fund;
  • Reviewing an annual Park District Report, including assessment of performance measures and reporting to the Superintendent and Park Board on implementation issues, concerns and needed adjustments in services or spending;
  • Holding public meetings and making recommendations to the Superintendent as input to each 6-year update to the district spending plan.

Q: Can park funds be allocated to cover other city needs?

A: State law limits park district funds to parks and recreation purposes.

Q: The park district is an independent taxing authority. Do they have to comply with labor contracts and other city laws?

A: Through the ILA, the City and Parks will be the sole provider of services for the park district. As a City department, Parks is required to comply with City laws, ethics rules and labor contracts.

Q: Who will own the open space and park facilities?

A: Park and recreation land, facilities, and equipment preserved and maintained with park district funds are and will remain the property of the City of Seattle. Any new or replacement land, facilities, and equipment created or developed with park district funds will become the property of the City of Seattle.

Q: Will Parks property be sold off?

A: Selling City-owned park land or facilities, whether they were bought with City or park district funds, would be subject to Initiative 42 restrictions on the sale of park property. Under Initiative 42, City-owned park land can't be sold, transferred or changed from park use unless the City receives land that can be used for a park of equivalent or better size, value, location and usefulness in exchange.

Q: What projects will be funded initially?

A: Projects to be funded in the first 6 years are shown in the Mayor's proposed list of Parks Investment Initiatives.

Q: How will projects be added in the future?

A: Parks will conduct a community-oriented process to determine spending priorities every 6 years through the life of the park district. The District Board, after considering the recommendations from the public process and the Community Oversight Committee, would determine the spending levels and updated projects programs and services to fund for years 7 through 12 as part of the 2021 budget process. This process of adjusting the spending levels (with annual inflation adjustments) and a revised list of projects would continue for the life of the park district.

Q: Can property just be taken and condemned?

A: If condemnation of property is needed to perform park district services, Parks will follow City condemnation procedures.

Q: Who will decide Parks' annual budget?

A: The Mayor will direct the development and implementation of Parks' budgets and work programs. City Council will approve Parks' budgets and provide oversight. The District Board would approve a final park district budget showing how park district revenues would fund part of the Parks' budget.

Q: Seattle Parks and Recreation currently receives funding from the City's General Fund. Will that funding go away?

A: The City will continue to use City revenues to fund Parks and will continue to allocate a minimum of $89 million per year of General Subfund revenues (2014 level of funding) to support Parks' services and facilities unless the City Council by a three-fourths vote determines that a natural disaster or exigent economic circumstances prevent the Council from maintaining this level of General Subfund support. Parks' charter revenues (10 percent of certain City fines and fees) will continue to be allocated solely to park and recreation purposes as provided in Article XI Section 3 of the City Charter.

Q: What would the tax rate be with the park district?

A: For the first year (2016), the park district intends to collect $47.7 million to fund the proposed list of Investment Initiatives. If the park district had been in effect in 2014, the amount would translate into an estimated tax rate of $0.303 per $1,000 of the value of assessed property. This would be a $121 assessment for the owner of a house valued at $400,000.

Q: Is the Park District a reliable funding source?

A: The District would be a junior taxing district that during a recession theoretically could have its tax collection curtailed in favor of more senior districts. Because in Seattle only State, County, and City property taxes receive priority over District taxes, the possibility of curtailment (called "proration") is small.

Q: Is there a limit to how much the park district can collect?

A: Yes, the park district can collect up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. To collect more than 75 cents per $1,000 requires an election in which voter turnout is at least 40% of the turnout in the last general election and 60% of those voters approve the higher rate.

Q: Is there a ramp-up period for the park district?

A: 2015 would be used as a ramp-up period. Park district funds would not be collected until 2016. During 2015 Parks would establish performance measures, develop processes for allocating funds to other organizations where called for, ramp up hiring, and establish an automated asset management system.

Q: If voters are dissatisfied with decisions made by the District Board, can they vote not to re-elect Board members?

A: Yes. Voters elect City Council members and can vote against Council member re-election if they are dissatisfied with District Board decisions.

Q: Can the park district be dissolved?

A: Yes, the District Board can dissolve the District. State law also provides a very low threshold - a petition by 10% of the voters from the last general election -- for prompting the District Board to consider dissolving the District.

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