Council discusses parks levy renewal measure at meeting

Construction begins on sewer upgrade project.

City Manager Jessi Bon feels the city is set to begin moving toward placing the parks levy renewal measure on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot — a full year ahead of the current levy’s expiration date.

Bon and the city councilmembers engaged in a discussion of the potential scenario at council’s June 7 meeting and they will continue delving into the possible early placement of the levy at its June 21 meeting.

“We just put a considerable amount of time into your PROS (Parks, Recreation and Open Space) Plan, which really helped inform our levy recommendation, and we are ready to go now,” said Bon, adding that if the new levy is featured on the November ballot and fails to pass, the current levy will still stand and the city could possibly repackage the proposal and include it on a 2023 ballot.

If the new levy is placed on the ballot and passes, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The current levy’s funding stands at $980,122 for parks operations and maintenance ($728,122) and capital projects ($252,000). With the city applying a 1% increase, the new levy would roll out at $989,923 with $735,403 for parks operations and maintenance and $254,520 for capital projects.

Sitting at $2.34 million, the current parks operations and maintenance budget is focused on tending to parks, athletic and school fields and trails. The city’s revenue sources in this realm include property, sales and business and occupation taxes from the general fund, funding from the Washington State Department of Transportation from Aubrey Davis Park maintenance and user fees for field rentals and more.

The June 7 discussion also featured a pair of funding options for ongoing playground replacements and increased annual funding for restoration projects included in the Pioneer Park Forest Management Plan. Bon’s presentation at the meeting noted that all Island playgrounds — with the exception of Mercerdale Park — will need to be replaced over the next 15 years at an estimated cost of $7,047,000.

Topics that council dug into during the discussion ranged from funding sources such as impact fees; to the breadth of work needed to be done at Pioneer Park to maintain a healthy forest; to the many facets (labor, design, community input and more) needed to undertake a plethora of parks projects; and to whether one to three levies could cover the gamut of work on the proposed docket.

In sharing one of the main reasons for renewing the parks levy, Bon pointed to the 2020 PROS Plan community survey, which revealed that 99% of residents feel that parks and recreation opportunities are essential to the quality of Island life. Residents are using parks now more than ever with many people making visits at least once a week, the 2020 and 2021 surveys said.

“Zooming out from that data, it’s really important to continue to preserve and protect our parks, trails, open space and rec facilities for our future generations,” Bon said.

Council needs to take action on a ballot measure ordinance by its last meeting in July, and the deadline to submit ballot materials is Aug. 2.


In other city news, council unanimously adopted the 2023-2028 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) at its June 7 meeting.

According to Mercer Island documents, cities must formally adopt a yearly TIP and submit it to the Washington State Department of Transportation and Puget Sound Regional Council by July 1.

Engineer Patrick Yamashita discussed the TIP in a previous Reporter article: “Mercer Island is essentially a fairly built-out community. Our street network is all in place, and so, much of our TIP is related to maintaining our existing infrastructure, maintaining our existing streets, maintaining our existing paths and sidewalks.”


King County provided an update on the North Mercer Island/Enatai sewer upgrade project on June 2.

Construction crews were expected to commence work as early as June 8 on the Interstate 90 trail, which will feature the closure of the corridor between Shorewood Drive and Southeast 35th Street on Mercer Island. That portion of the trail is anticipated to be shuttered for up to six months as crews install new sewer pipe under the trail.

Crews began the project by tackling this first segment of the trail and will continue their work in sections on the Island with “open-cut” trenching to bury the pipe in place.