Signs advertising the Northwest Park and Recreation District #2 levy can still be seen in some places throughout Blaine and Birch Bay, standing on a yard sign or hanging crookedly from a chain-link fence.
While these signs suggest a great deal of support for the levy in the two communities the park district serves, the most recent vote tallies paint a different picture.
The levy, which needed 60 percent of the vote or more to pass, managed 56.7 percent of the vote across the Blaine and Birch Bay communities. The same levy failed with 57.6 percent of the vote in 2010.
“It’s a shame when the minority rejects what the majority wants,” park commissioner Terry Johnston said in reference to the levy’s required 60 percent of the vote or more.
According to county voting precinct data, Blaine precincts gave stronger support for the levy than did the Birch Bay precincts. The Blaine precincts approved the levy with 60.9 percent of the vote while the Birch Bay area supported the levy with 56 percent. Two voting precincts within the park district boundaries but not wholly part of the Blaine or Birch Bay areas approved the levy with 51.7 percent.
The district has the same boundaries as the Blaine school district, minus Point Roberts.
While park commissioners expressed disappointment in the failure of the levy, they understood the current economic climate most likely made it difficult for people to vote for something that would increase their tax payments. The levy would have raised $350,000 for the district over the next six years and cost 10 cents per $1,000 of property’s assessed value, or $20 per year on a $200,000 home.
Park commission president Ted Morris said the district has enough money in its reserves to continue operations until at least 2013, when the district will most likely go out for another levy. He said the commissioners feel comfortable the district will be able to provide a similar level of service despite the levy’s failure, though he will be recruiting volunteers to staff the recently renovated activity center at Bay Horizon Park on weekends.However, Morris said the district may need to re-examine the grants the district awards to groups such as Blaine youth baseball.
The district employs two people, an office manager and activities coordinator, and relies on five volunteer commissioners to manage the district’s finances and recreation improvement projects. Morris said the commissioners will decide at a budget meeting in January how best to manage the next year financially.
Morris could not offer comment on the precinct data, but said he is hopeful the two years until the next levy will help people understand what the district has done for Blaine and Birch Bay. With only two paid part-time employees and a myriad recreation programs, Morris said the payback from the district is much more than what is put in.
“Hopefully people will be touched by the district and know who we are,” Morris said.