University Place voters will decide in April whether to keep the city’s recreation programs by forming a metropolitan park district.
Park district proponents recently submitted more than 200 pages of signatures to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office. Auditor Julie Anderson confirmed Thursday they had the required 3,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the April 26 ballot.
With signature gathering complete, park district proponents have shifted to campaign mode. The focus now is on educating UP voters about why a metropolitan park district is needed in the city of 32,000 people to keep programs such as music, arts and youth sports.
“While there’s a lot of people aware of the initiative and what we’re trying to do, we want to continue to get the word out,” said Vivian Foster, spokeswoman for UP Metro Parks, the group behind the effort.
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“Something we love and have enjoyed for all these years is going to be taken away,” she said.
Late last year, the UP City Council said it could not afford to continue to fund its recreation programs in 2017. That means youth programs and the city’s senior center and its offerings would go away at the end of this year.
A metropolitan park district is a junior taxing district similar to a library district. It operates independently of the city and is governed by five elected commissioners.
Something we love and have enjoyed for all these years is going to be taken away.”
Vivian Foster, park district proponent
The district would encompass the city’s boundaries. A maximum tax of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value could be collected. The tax would pay for park district programs.
Elected commissioners would determine the tax rate and ask voters to approve it. The county expects to open a filing period for commissioner candidates later this month. Their names also will appear on the April ballot.
The city’s volunteer park commission recommended the metro park district to the City Council in 2014. All seven City Council members signed the petition to get the park district measure on the ballot.
The city will continue to maintain its 17 parks at normal spending levels regardless of what happens with the park district proposal, according to city officials.
For more information on the proposed metropolitan park district visit upmetroparks.org.