Easy fixes for some of the challenges of island life - finding a full-time living-wage job or a rental in the summer - are non-existent. However, there are simple ways to provide the high quality of life that attracted all of us to the island.
Voters approved an increase in funding to San Juan Island library and are fortunate to have a nationally recognized award-winning facility. Islanders from every demographic pursue education, enlightenment and entertainment at the library.
Now there is an opportunity to do the same for another island institution which serves people of all ages and abilities. We can vote Yes on the Island Rec levy and provide more funding for this organization which needs more due to expansion of duties.
The new levy will provide resources to maintain and operate the Carter Avenue Family Park/Athletic Fields which - after almost two decades in the making - are now open. (Note: some of the facility - baseball field, hiking trail, playground, etc - is still being constructed.)
A person will be hired to take care of the facility which is located on school district property and other parks owned by Island Rec - gravel pit, dog park, and at the fairgrounds the skateboard park, and family park.
These recreational spaces add healthy fun opportunties for children, adults and dogs.
The second portion of the funding allows island students to participate in school sports. If you are wondering why the school district doesn't pay for this, it's simple. It can't afford to. When it came to a choice between the classroom and the sports fields, the school board's choice was obvious.
The school district did not have a way to increase its own funding to cover the sports programs. The local school levy cannot be increased. Students pay participation fees of $150 per sport per season. (There is a family cap.)
Fortunately, islanders had a way to keep the sports program going. Six years ago, voters approved an increase to the Island Rec Levy in order to cover the cost of the sports program. While school enrollment has decreased a bit, participation in sports has increased in the past six years.
Years ago, I didn't realize the importance of team sports and thought it would be no big deal if they were dropped. During the 15 years since starting San Juan Islander, I've observed hundreds of students participating in wrestling, soccer, tennis, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, golf and track. The discipline required to practice, the healthy benefits of exercise, the joy of learning a lifetime sport (golf, tennis, running) can't be taught in the classroom. And then there's the camaraderie, the memories and the trips to different parts of the state.
The sports program cannot exist without the funding from the Island Rec levy. This is a fact, not hyberbole.
The other portion of the levy covers the recreational programs and the administration of the organization. In 2013, 4.839 people participated in the 1,070 hours of programming offered. In 2014 it was 4,855 people and 1,011 hours. These figures do not include the attendance at the Music on the Lawn series.
The levy measure asks for 8 cents for the parks maintenance and operations, 12.5 cents for school sports and 18 cents for the recreational programs for a total of 38.5 cents. This would bring in $970,000. While the increase from 17 to 38 cents looks shocking. Keep in mind property values are less than they were in 2009. Island Rec is one of three junior taxing districts in the county which is affected by decreasing property values. When the value goes down so does funding for Island Rec. Fire departments, schools, libraries and others are not affected by lower property values.
By the way, the library's levy is 49.9 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value and it brought in $1.267 million. Please do the right thing, vote yes and fund Island Rec as well as we've funded our excellent library.
For more details about the levy, read the article, Ballots due April 28 for Island Rec levy, posted earlier this month or visit the Yes4islandrec.org website. An article about the assessor's error is posted here.
Ballots are due in the drop box in front of the Sheriff's Office, in the Elections Office or postmarked by April 28. As of Monday, April 20, 1,742 ballots had been cast out of 5,746.