Parks bond headed to ballot
Lake Oswego voters will decide May 21 whether or not they want to continue paying for a parks and recreation bond that would fund a long list of capital improvement projects, maintenance and acquisition of open space.
The City Council voted 6-1 Feb. 19 to approve the referral of the bond measure to voters at a rate of 24 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value. That would produce an estimated bond of $30 million over the next 20 years instead of the $22 million City staff had initially forecasted.
The math is a bit tricky, but whether the Council went with $22 million rate or $30 million rate, Lake Oswegans would not have seen their property tax rates go up.
"The last time we floated a bond for parks was approximately 20 years ago," Councilor Jackie Manz told The Review. "People have limited capacity for bonds — this is money they'll be paying in their property taxes — so to do $30 million today will allow us to accomplish many things that will take us over the next 10-20 years."
Rather than going with a property tax rate that decreases over time, the bond would keep that 24 cent millage rate steady and allow the City's Parks & Recreation Department to dive deeper into a long list of projects which includes improvements to neighborhood parks, acquisition of land for future parks and open space such as the Yates Street property near Hallinan Woods and several maintenance projects at existing parks and facilities.
"I think we have an opportunity right now, and we a lot have projects we want to get done," Manz said. "Our parks survey indicated that people felt very strongly in support of the $22 million, so we decided we'd leverage that and go for the $30 million."
Manz proved to be one of the biggest proponents of going for the higher bond amount in what's being characterized as a renewal rather than a new bond. Since there's legally no such thing as a bond renewal, it's technically a new bond, but City officials are hoping to capitalize on the fact that taxpayers' property rates would not change if the bond passes come May 21.
For Manz, parks and open spaces are an important part of what makes Lake Oswego such a great place to live, work and play. She believes that having access to nature is an integral part of keeping the mind and body healthy.
She's hopeful that if the bond is passed, the Council will work with the parks department to acquire new open space within the city limits, first and foremost, before looking elsewhere to purchase land. It's imperative, she says, that Lake Oswegans are provided with the accessible, well-maintained parks and natural areas.
Councilor John LaMotte agrees.
"If we kick the can down the road, parks will fall into worse shape and we'll miss out on projects to connect trails and things like that, or pick up strategic pieces of property," LaMotte told The Review. LaMotte said he has personally received a large number of calls and written testimony in favor of the parks bond, so voting to go with the higher dollar amount fell in line with what he's heard from the community.
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