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Seattle City Council Mulls Creating Park District To Fund Repairs

Matt Kowalczyk

The city of Seattle says its parks need major repairs and it doesn’t have the money to pay for them.

On Monday night, the Seattle City Council will hear from the public on the idea of creating a special park district that could levy its own taxes.

The difference between a park district and a levy is that a levy ends after a certain amount of time. A park district keeps on taxing property owners in perpetuity. Advocates say that’s what’s needed for parks — a predictable source of revenue for paying for everything from fixing leaky roofs to mowing the grass.

“Green Lake is a dearly, dearly-loved park, and a lot of people have visited there. And if you look at the restrooms around the walkway, they are in terrible shape,” said Barbara Wright, who co-chaired an advisory committee examining ways to fund the city’s parks.

If the city council approves what Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has proposed, Seattle voters would decide in August whether to create such a district.

Murray says the district, in its first year, would collect about $54 million. That works out to about $168 for an average Seattle home.

Critics like John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition say the city should look to other possible sources of funding, such as impact fees paid by developers.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.