What in the world is an MPD?

Exploring funding options for new community center

You may have heard the term “MPD” tossed around in recent months, related to the North Kitsap pool in particular. Here in Kingston, we’re considering a local Metropolitan Parks District to fund operation of a new community center/library building that will be located near the present tennis courts, in the Village Green park. Following are facts about what an MPD is and how it’s connected to our replacement Kingston Community Center and library.


MPD stands for Metropolitan Park District. It’s a ‘junior taxing district’ similar to a fire district, and levies property tax on real estate within its boundaries for “the management, control, improvement, maintenance, and acquisition of parks, parkways, boulevards, and recreational facilities.” (RCW 35.61.010)

The state changed relevant law in 2002, making unincorporated areas such as Kingston, along with cities and counties of any size, eligible to form an MPD. Since then, seven Washington communities have formed MPDs, including Bainbridge Island.


Few other funding mechanisms exist for park facilities operations and maintenance costs. Until 1999, local volunteers operated the present community center with funds earned from bingo, vending machines, and fees for room rentals. However, little money was actually available for ongoing maintenance, and dollars earned were devoted primarily to paying utility costs and cleaning services.

In 1999, Kitsap County Parks and Recreation took over operation of the present building. Local in-kind and cash donations supplemented county improvements to the building in 2005. However, for at least two years Kitsap County has been signaling clearly that budget cuts in parks and building maintenance were unavoidable. It’s now plain that there will be no county money for new facilities and their related operating costs.

We also know that to qualify for construction grants to build our new community center and library, we’ll have to show that we have the means to maintain and operate the new facility.


Voters can authorize formation of an MPD by a simple majority: 50 percent plus one vote. Two means are available to get the measure on the ballot: 1) petition of 15 percent of voters in the precincts included in the proposed district, or 2) approval of the Board of County Commissioners.

How much?

Any MPD is authorized to levy up to $.75 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. However, we’ve learned that a common threshold of tolerance for parks and recreation tax is about $50 per household per year. The Kingston goal is $.15 per $1,000, or about $50 annually on the average home value of about $330,000 for Kingston. This local MPD revenue would fund the annual operating expense (estimated at $225,000) of our new Kingston Community Center and library.


The Kingston Community Center Foundation Board of Directors is the group that’s been weighing the feasibility of an MPD to pay the on-going operational costs of our replacement community center and library. The foundation is a Washington state nonprofit corporation sanctioned as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to “Building a place that connects and strengthens community.”

The ballot measure would be accompanied by a measure to elect five commissioners from within the proposed district boundaries. Their initial terms would be of varying lengths, phasing into six-year terms. These local commissioners receive a stipend (typically $150-$300 annually), established when the ballot measures are created.

Alternatively, the Board of County Commissioners could serve as the governing body of the MPD. Governance type is established at the time of the MPD ballot measure.


We’d need eight to 10 months to get a measure on the ballot, following these steps:

– Community survey to test community response to a property tax for annual operating costs of the new Kingston Community Center and library, January 2009.

– Petition campaign for 15 percent of voter signatures, February-March 2009.

– County review of proposed district boundaries, to be completed 45 days after notice of intention to form an MPD is published, May 2009.

– Sixty or more days after boundary review, measures are placed on the ballot on any available election date, August or November 2009.

– If the ballot measure passes, the assessment begins the year after the vote.

Why not?

The largest obstacle to a local MPD presently is economic uncertainty. Though Kingston-area precincts have voted in favor of library and parks measures in the past, voter economic worries might sink support for even a small tax increase like this one.

Look for the community survey in the January issue of the Kingston Community News, and please provide candid responses to the questions we ask there.

Contact Bobbie Moore, executive director of the Kingston Community Center Foundation, for more information at elliottmoore@comcast.net, or (360) 297-2845.