How our government works

Olympia Metropolitan Park District

'It’s about compliance and trust'


Olympia's Metropolitan Park District Advisory Committee’s (MPDAC) May 1 meeting provided the opportunity to clarify the city’s different parks committees and their functions.

Paul Simmons, Olympia’s Director of Parks, Arts & Recreation, explained, “The Olympia Metropolitan Park District Advisory Committee was created to advise the City Council and the Olympia Metropolitan Park District Board [OMPDB] regarding the compliance of the funding levels established in the Interlocal Cooperative Agreement between the City of Olympia and the Olympia Metropolitan Park District.

  • The OMPD Board governs the district; its members are the members of the city council.
  • The MPDAC provides oversight of the District. Its duties include advising the city and the district and presenting “an annual report to the city and the district regarding the city’s compliance with the funding levels identified in an interlocal agreement between the city and the district,” according to the city's website.

“The five [OMPDB] members are City of Olympia residents. Two of the members are appointed from the City’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and the other three members are citizens-at-large,” Simmons added. The OMPD board appointed one new member and reappointed two existing members to the MPDAC on April 30.

As for what the Olympia Metropolitan Park District itself is, its page on the city’s website explains it this way: “The OMPD is a junior property taxing district with special taxing authority for the management, control, improvement, maintenance, and acquisition of parks, pathways, boulevards, recreational facilities, programs, and services. The OMPD includes the entire area within the municipal boundaries of the City of Olympia as they currently exist, as well as how they may exist as the result of future annexations.”

Simmons pointed out at the meeting that some other cities in the state have metropolitan park districts, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Tumwater. The vote for such a district in Lacey narrowly failed. Olympia’s MPD is modeled after Seattle’s, he noted.

Narrower focus than other parks committee 

This advisory committee has a narrower focus than another parks committee, Olympia Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC), Simmons explained at the MPDAC meeting. MPDAC focuses on compliance with the funding from tax money as voted on by the city’s voters, and it secures grants. “It brought in over $10 million in grants in the last six years,” Simmons reported.

MPDAC Chairman Daniel Farber added that there are two key elements to the committee’s purpose: compliance (with budgeting) and trust. “I think it would really be helpful to take on this trust angle,” he stated.

That other advisory committee has a more detailed, hands-on focus in terms of the actual workings, property, and activities of the city’s parks. “The Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee was established in 1983 to make recommendations to the City Council regarding parks and recreation plans, policies, programs and projects and to serve as the liaison between citizens and the Council on parks and recreation related matters,” Simmons observed.

Another main agenda item at the MPDAC meeting was to give the nod to Chairman Farber to “draft a letter acknowledging that the Advisory Committee has received the Financial Compliance Report from the City, and his letter will then be attached to the report for the open public comment period. Over the course of the next couple of months the report will be made available for public comment, and then in the fall the compliance report will be approved by both the OMPD Advisory Committee and the OMPD Board,” Simmons summarized.

One other item was a report from OMPD Treasurer Aaron BeMiller that the state’s biannual audit of 2021-2022 came back clean, with no findings of issues. Simmons noted that this “state audit is required for all Government entities. The OMPD is considered a separate government entity.”

In another discussion, Simmons answered a question from MPDAC Vice Chairman Roger Horn about the status of parkland purchases. “We’re always shopping. Not all properties are suitable for parks, and sometimes we can’t agree with the seller. At any point, we’re doing that on several properties.”

Farber remarked about the budget, “This is about budget and revenue -- revenue is never exactly the same as the budgeted amount. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less.” He asked the staff what happens in the case that revenue exceeds the budget.

Simmons replied, “We -- the staff -- have a list of needs that we don’t expect to get funding for, so if there are additional revenues, we can go to this list.” In the case of revenue falling short of the budget, he said that year-end funds are used. “We try to do the best with what the public has given us,” [in terms of tax money], but the Parks staff also recognizes the importance of making sure that the city as a whole is functioning properly.


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