Nearly 45% of the 23,000 people living in the La Pine Park & Recreation district — which covers everything south of Sunriver to the Deschutes County line — use park facilities or participate in a park-run facility every year, according to the district.
Park officials hope voters realize the agency’s reach and impact when they’re asked in the May 19 primary to approve a levy so the sprawling parks district can upgrade its facilities, bolster existing programs and possibly add new programs.
“It’ll really help the community, help us keep going, help us keep what we have and offer more,” said Deren Ash, who sits on the park district’s board of directors.
The levy would add a 27-cent tax per $1,000 of assessed value in the district for five years, starting in 2021, according to the Deschutes County Elections Department. The average homeowner in the park district will pay $54 per year, or $4.50 per month, if it passes.
Taxpayers in the district now pay a permanent base tax rate 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the parks district.
Passing the levy would be a boon to the park district, which is barely scraping by financially, said Ash.
“It’s the equivalent of living paycheck-to-paycheck, in terms of how much money we have,” he said.
One aspect the proposed levy would pay for deferred maintenance for park district facilities, Ash said. For example, they plan to improve the La Pine Community Center building and Finley Butte Park to make them more accessible for people with disabilities, he said.
There would also be other miscellaneous upgrades paid for with the levy, like replacing the ice machine and the tables at the community center, Ash said.
“The tables we’re using now are 10-20 years old and will be falling apart soon,” he said.
The levy would also help the park district keep, and possibly expand, various programs, from Little League baseball to archery to country dancing classes, Ash said. The park district could also use levy funds to start new programs, although district officials haven’t yet decided what those might be.
“We need the money, then we can go to the public and figure out what more we can do, specifically,” Ash said. “It’s a little bit of a chicken and egg thing.”
The south Deschutes County region that La Pine Park & Recreation serves is adding a growing number of new residents, and needs more funding to properly serve its population, Ash said.
“The district’s growing in terms of people moving in, and we want to grow in terms of what we’re offering to everybody,” he said. “To do that, we need to fund those programs.”
Ash said he understands that this spring is a difficult time to ask people for money, as many are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the tax won’t take effect for another year, he said.
“Especially with coronavirus, money’s tight, and I hate even asking for even one penny from anybody right now,” Ash said. “But this won’t go into effect until the 2021 tax year, so the economy and jobs should recover by then. And it’s a pretty small amount we’re asking for.”