“If the RFA passes up the ballot in April of 2023, the shift of property tax and any resulting general fund expense reduction will not occur until 2024.”
Jay Burney, Olympia city manager, said this in response to the Olympia Metropolitan Park District (OMPD) and Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) during the OMPD Board special meeting on Tuesday, November 15.
Both OMPD and PRAC sent letters to the city regarding the proposed Regional Fire Authority (RFA).
The letters contained concerns about the potential funding impacts of the RFA on the committees’ funds, saying that the projected loss would be “substantial, unstable, and disproportionately impactful” to their departments.
“At our October 5 meeting, the OMPD Advisory Committee received a presentation on the potential funding impacts to Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department (OPARD) if the RFA proposal was to pass.
Specifically, the presentation showed that the 11% dedicated funding for OPARD will be lessened as an overall percentage of the City’s budget as a result of the RFA, according to Roger Horn, Chair of the OMPD Advisory Committee.
PRAC also presented its recommendation in the form of a letter to the council, urging them to “keep the intent of the voters and previous councils in mind.”
“PRAC recommends the City Council takes action to ensure that not just the letter but the actual intent of the Interlocal Agreement are met, and that potential passage of an RFA would not disproportionately diminish OPARD’s funding compared to other city departments that rely on the General Fund, and that the structure of the funding be examined to reduce the impact of future variability in revenues,” wrote PRAC chairperson Maria Ruth.
Burney responded that the city is approaching crisis in terms of its ability to continue to adequately fund its fire response and make meaningful progress in meeting the demands of a growing population.
“None of us want to pit fire funding versus parks funding. This is a conversation about finding predictable, sustainable ways to fund both programs that our community values,” Burney said.
“Additionally, in 2023, [the] council will be considering an annexation in southeast Olympia that will bring new revenues with it,” added the city manager. “We will have time to address parks funding as part of the 2024 budget process.”
Councilmember Jim Cooper acknowledged the letters from the parks departments.
“We hear you. We acknowledge that there is a structural issue in the city budget regarding public safety and our parks funding, and we will do our best to continue to do our best for everyone and Olympia,” Cooper said.
The special meeting concluded the official business of the board for the year.
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