Five-year operating levy

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The Madras Aquatic Center Board of Directors and MAC officials fielded questions at their first town hall on their request for a five-year operating levy, which will be on the May 21 ballot. The district is asking for an additional 40 cents per $1,000 assessed value, which would amount to $40 annually for the owner of a $100,000 home.Supporters of the Madras Aquatic Center turned out April 8 at the pool to learn more about the district’s request for a five-year operating levy that will be on the May ballot.

During the first of two scheduled “town hall” events, Bobby DeRoest, aquatics manager, said the MAC provides a “big boost for our local community. I don’t know exactly how much it’s brought in, but it’s an enormous amount.”

DeRoest and Carolyn Harvey, operations manager, both regularly hear from the owners and operators of local businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and motels, and stores, who see more business from all the visitors for swim meets and water polo tournaments.

The current operating levy of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, passed before the pool opened, is not adequate to run the operation, which needs additional funding for capital maintenance, keeping the doors open year-round, running the recreation district (which has not yet become self-supporting), and to eliminate the district’s loan.

The MAC District is asking for another 40 cents per $1,000, for a total of 65 cents per $1,000, to operate the MAC, which has an annual budget of about $650,000. After compression, DeRoest said the new levy would bring in about $240,000 a year.

Tax revenue currently brings in about $200,000 per year, less than one-third of the annual budget. Other Central Oregon taxing districts, such as Bend, are providing about half the district’s budget. Bend residents pay about $1.50 per $1,000, he said.

Asked about the possibility of raising prices at the pool to add to the revenue, Steve Hillis, board member, explained, “You have to keep the price within the range of rates for our community. It’s more important to have more people participating than fewer.”

Lonnie Henderson, chairman of the MAC PAC (political action committee), said that he wished he’d had access to a pool as he was growing up in Madras.

“I’m a nonswimmer,” he said. “Because we have a pool, my son and my kids know how to swim.” Henderson’s son Dustin was a member of the 2013 boys state championship swim team.

“We want this to be a healthy community,” he said, noting that he believes the pool has had a role in helping Jefferson County move from the least healthy county in the state to the second least healthy. “We’re getting there, and it’s fun to be a part of that.”

MAC board and officials will hold a second town hall Wednesday, April 17, at 6:30 p.m., in the Metolius Depot.

The board and committee members will also hold an event to back the efforts of the MAC PAC on Saturday, April 20, from 4-8 p.m. at Geno’s Italian Grill at 212 S.W. Fourth St.

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