By March Twisdale
“Despite living on Vashon Island for close to 20 years, I find our levy system confusing,” I said.
“I understand,” laughed Elaine Ott-Rocheford, Vashon Park District Executive Director. “Our property tax system is one of the most complicated in the country.” After a two-hour meeting, and some seriously mind-bending exercises, I began to understand how we tax ourselves, how our tax rates remain flat or increase, how we’re legally limited in how much we can tax ourselves, and how our districts “share” in that limited amount of money.
As our April 25th ballots begin to arrive by mail, I hope you’ll make the choice to vote, one way or the other. Your choice to participate is more important than this levy, our next state Senator, or who sits in the Oval Office. As Americans, our belief that our government is our responsibility – matters.
When deciding whether or not to support this levy, ask yourself, “Do I want a Vashon Park District?” To answer that question, do two things: (1) visit their website at: https://vashonparks.org/, and then (2) ask yourself, “Does anyone else want a Vashon Park District?”
When we fund projects through government entities, we are either directly helping ourselves or we are helping others. When I was younger, and my kids were involved in many Vashon Park District activities, I was paying into a system that I directly enjoyed. This month, if I vote yes, it will be for the sake of other families, our neighbors, Islanders I will never meet, and even people I don’t like! It’ll be for our community as a whole.
This April, we will be voting on the “maintenance and operations levy” for the Vashon Park District. Literally, their operating budget for the next four years. If you’re new to Vashon-Maury Island, it’s important to fully understand that our idyllic ambiance comes with a cost. Our legal status as “rural, unincorporated King County” has a side effect. If we do not choose to pay for the Vashon Park District, it goes away. Full stop.
If you have been here awhile, you may remember the chaos of the post-housing collapse years, when the Vashon Park District was forced to close down many of its services, while the new fields project collided with a sharp decrease in property taxes. Elaine Ott-Rocheford stepped into her role at that time, and since, she and her dedicated staff have turned that burning, sinking, leaky, collapsing ship around! Users of the Vashon Park District can see the improvements, whether you’re a dog-walker, a swimmer, a playground lover, or a local sports organization renting space for workouts, practices, and games.
Gains for our community include job creation, wage increases for park district employees, and a diligently well-run parks district that increases our access to and enjoyment of many Island spaces, beaches, trails, horse facilities, rentals, classes, concerts, the ski bus, our sailing program, kayak safety classes, and more.
Inflation, inflation, inflation. If your budget is complaining, you’re not alone. Everyone, including the districts that define the quality of our community life on this Island (hospital, fire, school, library, roads, cemetery, the list goes on) is feeling the pinch. It makes sense at times like these to think carefully about the pros and cons of what to keep in our budget and what to let go.
For many, cell phone expenses can be reduced (see Andy Valencia’s article on page 6). Others are looking to gardening, wild-harvesting, and food preservation (see various Loop articles on these topics). Those with larger farm animals are excited to save gas/ferry fees by having access to high-quality feed on-Island (see “Animals Need to Eat Too” on page 11). Many will be choosing “stay-cations” this summer – dodging insane gas prices – while some are struggling to make ends meet at all. Alone, we are not.
And so, each voting decision will be uniquely personal. The Vashon Park District is asking for the same 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed housing value that we approved before. Due to our strange state taxation laws, this will result in an actual increase in revenue, with much of that helping them offset the same inflation challenges we’re all facing.
My home is assessed at $995,000, and my husband and I currently live on a very tight, fixed income. I’m being asked to pay $447.75 per year for our Vashon Park District. We see this as the real-world expense that it is – and a real-world collection of resources and employment opportunities for Islanders.
Like all of you, we’ll make our final decision when we fill out our ballot. Let’s see how close we can get to 100% engagement, as the owners of our own country.