Nearly 5 years ago, I started attending Park District meetings because I was concerned with the District’s financial mismanagement, and ultimately. spent 2 years on the Board being publicly humiliated at nearly every meeting, during which 100% of my motions were defeated, because I had hope that a new Board would be elected to represent everyone on the island.
Last year I had hope that having accumulated an adequate reserve to avoid the wasteful use of a TAN, avoid borrowing for capital needs and have funds available to address unexpected income shortfalls we could begin responding to the many Part District Survey recommendations.
Then this year I had hope when the Board voted to invest $100,000 in recreation programs in 2019.
Then tonight, I lost all hope when the Board voted to ignore the wishes of the island and make a fiscally irresponsible commitment to the Park District staff.
When the previous Park District Board voted to proceed with VES it too had substantial financial reserves, a false sense of urgency and, based upon historical levy receipts, and way too optimistic estimates of cost, it believed VES made sense.
Regretfully, this Board does not even consider what will happen to our income stream if the Fire District raises it levy again next year, or a Hospital District is approved. When VES started our parks were is much better condition. Now we have needs of nearly $4 million in deferred maintenance, and nearly half of that amount cannot be funded by grants.
Over the next decade, the increased wage motion passed tonight, will dwarf what the Park District had to fund for VES. And unlike VES, we will nothing to show for it, not a soccer field, or ball field or even a covered pool.
There will be an eventual shortfall. I expect the Board will seek to delay the this shortfall by financing equipment that should be purchased for cash, underfunding recreational programs, continuing to ignore deferred maintenance and increasing user fees.
Both times when I ran for election, I campaigned on a platform of transparency, fiscal responsibility and representation of all islanders. I had no agenda. I was not advocating for a dog park, even though I have two dogs or more trails, even though I regularly run on them.
My first Board had an agenda only to serve the several hundred fields user and their families, and the rest of the islanders lost. I had hoped this Board was different, but alas it is not. This time the rest of the island lost to two special interest groups. As was the case with VES, three Board members implemented an incredibly costly plan, while not only hiding their planned actions from the public, but even from other Board members. When confronted with facts that contradicted their rosy assumptions, none of the three supporters even wanted to discuss their flawed numbers. As Board members, we must make tough decisions, not just popular ones.
One of my fellow Board members stated we had a “moral responsibility” to vote for this wage increase. That implies that to oppose such a motion might be immoral. I have my own opinion on what truly is immoral. More to the point, what is irresponsible.
• Irresponsible is wasting $30,000 on a survey and totally ignoring the results.
• Irresponsible is allowing me to represent to the community that we plan to invest $100,000 in recreational programs next year, when this group had no intention of doing so. Keeping in-mind that investment would be less than the cost of 2 new employees.
• Irresponsible is preparing a Strategic Plan that calls for the District to reduce the list of deferred maintenance, starting in 2018, then voting to eliminate all money needed to perform this task.
• Irresponsible is expressing a need to hire a maintenance worker in April, then returning in May to say the person is no longer needed and the proposed cost now should be divided among the remaining employees.
• Irresponsible is basing the wage increases on the earnings of off-island entities, with zero discussion regarding what Vashon employers, especially the school district, actually are paying. For the record, the school district maintenance staff earn $43-45,000/yr whereas the Park District is paying $43-49,000/yr.
• Irresponsible is proposing to increase Park District property taxes by 28% in order to fund a 39% increase in staff wages with a total cost of $249,000, after staff compensation increases totaled 17% the previous 3 years. All this is occurring during a time when social security benefits are increasing 2.0%, the Armed Forces received its largest increase in 9 years – 2.6% and our own local school district is giving 4% raises.
The District’s ability to float a Bond to address deferred maintenance and less controversial capital needs was based upon its ability to demonstrate it has been fiscally responsible and can be trusted. Since that is no longer the case, I now would oppose any such Bond request.
I continue to have the greatest respect for the Park District staff, especially Jason and Elaine who have done excellent work in challenging situations. It has been a true honor and pleasure to serve on the Board with Doug Ostrom, who supported me on every key vote these past 4 ½ years. I appreciate the support Captain Joe, CC Stone and the vast Vashon community has given me over the years. Unfortunately, with no transparency and a total disregard for the wishes of the greater community this Board’s fiscal irresponsibility has made it impossible for me to fulfill the tenants upon which I sought this office. Therefore, it is with great sadness I am resigning as Park District commissioner effect immediately.