Kingston Community Center Foundation invites public opinion with survey

In December, the Kingston Community Center Foundation conducted phone surveys of 39 randomly selected households in the Kingston area to collect opinions about plans for the replacement community center project and establishment of a proposed local Metropolitan Park District (MPD).

The MPD would add an average of $50 to annual property tax bills for homes within its boundaries to help fund operation of the replacement community center. The MPD would encompass Kingston and any additional communities such as Indianola who would be likely to use the new community center.

Here are some of the facts and background information about the community center project to think about when completing the survey on the facing page.

The Kingston Community Center Foundation thanks everyone for taking the time to submit opinions and comments, which will help provide direction as a sustainable funding plan is developed for operations of the replacement community center.

Elements of community center support

Most people surveyed by phone had heard about the Kingston Village Green and the replacement community center. Comments were overwhelmingly positive and expressed widespread support for community center plans, which include an expanded library, senior activities space, shared recreational facilities for children and adults, meeting rooms, events spaces, and a commercial kitchen.

Support for a local Kingston-area MPD was very strong: 27 of 39 respondents said they’d be very likely to vote for an MPD that would fund the operation of a replacement community center. People said that it’s an important investment in a growing community; it was called “an idea whose time has come.”

The phone survey interviews addressed some issues, which are explained below along with answers for frequently asked questions.

– Does the planned facility duplicate any existing services? No. The present Boys & Girls Club at Kingston Middle School can serve only middle school-age kids. A space that will serve kids between ages six and 18 (the Boys & Girls Club norm) will expand programs. The expanded library will offer more seating and browsing space, a broader collection, and more reference and computer services. The senior center will serve those who cannot use the present building because it is inaccessible to those with mobility challenges.

– The center would need to be run like a business, with budgeting transparency, cost control and accountability. Fundraising methods like bake sales and bingo aren’t viable as the basis for revenue projections – they can’t be forecast accurately enough to support business planning. The Kingston Community Center Foundation has a formal business plan, and local businesses are represented on its board.

– Some respondents want to be sure other funding options are exhausted. Why can’t user fees and tenant rents pay for the replacement building? User fees are difficult to forecast. Total annual rents would be $80,000 without an MPD, far more than would allow the space to be used at affordable rates. The Kitsap Regional Library branches libraries are housed in facilities provided by the communities they serve. The library system provides for salaries and collections, plus the shared costs of maintaining branch spaces. If the community wants a great, expanded library, it will have to provide the building without charging rent.

– Aren’t there other county funds that could be used to fund community center operations? Twenty-six percent of 2009 county general fund revenue is now forecast to come from sales tax, which is declining in the current downturn. There’s no Washington state mechanism for unincorporated areas to levy sales taxes.

As for the property tax portion of the county budget, since 2002 the 1 percent annual lid on property tax growth is a problem because expenses have been growing faster than 1 percent annually. Competition for fewer revenue dollars leaves less for parks.

– Wouldn’t a countywide MPD be better than small ones? No. Historically, the bigger a taxing measure’s area, the harder the measure is to pass. Voters want to know that their dollars will be spent locally, and want decisions about spending those dollars to be made by people they know.

– Why not convince the county about the importance of the building? The county has endorsed the project by voting unanimously to accept the Village Green Concept plan; by asking House Speaker Frank Chopp for grant money for the project; and by providing staff to help write a grant application in September. The county is also backing the effort to develop low-income senior housing in the Village Green.