Elections

University Place voters rejecting park district

The message from University Place residents was clear Tuesday night: no new taxes.

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Initial election results showed a proposal to create a metropolitan park district failing by a nearly 2-1 margin.

The measure made it to the special election ballot through a signature-gathering effort led by UP residents. But in the end, the support of the 3,000 people who signed the petition wasn’t enough to win passage from the electorate at large.

“We need the recreational services. We don’t need the additional taxes,” said Betsy Tainer, one of the main opponents of a UP park district. “The risk of the additional tax burden this could have created, that would have been a bad thing.”

Last year, the UP City Council said it would discontinue the city’s popular recreation programs in 2017 because no money was available in the 2017-18 budget.

That means everything from youth sports and arts and music classes to the operation of the city’s senior center and its programming will cease next year.

After the City Council opted to stay out of the formation of the park district, a group of UP residents formed a grassroots campaign to get the park district measure on the ballot. They hoped their neighbors would share their vision and passion for recreation and support the formation of a park district independent from city operations.

Supporters of the park district measure issued a statement via email following the results:

“Although it's unfortunate that voters chose not to approve the MPD, and no one looks forward to the cuts to University Place's favorite programs and places, this was still an incredible community effort. We want to thank the volunteers and supporters who generously worked countless hours for their community.”

If voters had approved the district, five commissioners whose names appeared on the ballot would have been elected to lead its formation. Their work would have included setting the tax rate. The maximum allowable rate the district could have collected would have been 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, according to state law.

The park district measure is the most recent requested tax increase to be rejected by UP voters. Two years ago, residents said no to a tax increase proposed by the city to help pay for public safety.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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