Council to Consider New Parks Funding Sources

Ki-A-Kuts bridge over the Tualatin River.
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Tualatin residents could be paying more in parks fees in 2021 to help improve the city’s aging parks system. 

The Tualatin City Council voted at its Oct. 26 meeting to consider adding a parks fee of between $2 and $5 per month to City utility bills to pay for upgrades and maintenance. The Council is also considering asking voters to approve a larger capital bond measure or a local option levy sometime in 2021 that would pay for improvements to some of the City’s oldest and most worn-down parks. 

“I do think we need to have a multilayered approach to funding,” Councilor Nancy Grimes said. “So I think it would be appropriate to look at adding a small amount for a utility fee every month in addition to these other solutions.” 

The Council’s move came after a lengthy discussion surrounding the current state of City parks, many of which are up to 30 years old and are in relatively poor condition. 

Tualatin Parks and Recreation Director Ross Hoover presented councilors with a report card for existing parks that has been compiled over the past year. It shows 19 percent of the 739 City-owned parks and recreation assets fall into the lowest scoring category because of age and poor condition. Another 23 percent were rated ‘4’ on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being then newest and best-kept facilities. 

A new local option levy or capital bond measure in 2021 could help pay for some of Tualatin’s most worn-down parks.

“Those assets that really need attention, these range in scale from small scale to large scale projects,” Hoover said. “Some of these are park benches or part of a fence that is falling apart. Some are like the [Tualatin Commons] boat launch that are a significant investment.” 

Rich Mueller, the City’s Parks Planning and Development Manager, said the cost to repair facilities in the two lowest ranked categories is significant. 

“With the 4s and 5s together, the total is just under $15 million,” he said. 

Parks in better condition also will need refurbishing to the tune of almost $20 million in coming years, he added. 

At the same time, a utility fee would also fall short of raising the kind of money needed to overhaul existing facilities. Hoover estimated a $2 per month fee would raise $271,000 per year, while a $5 per month fee would bring in around $678,000. This, he said, would not be enough to pay for the type of work needed to replace ball fields, bridges and parking surfaces that need replacement. 

“Those are the types and the scale of projects that would probably need some type of bond or a levy mechanism,” he said. 

Those cost estimates also do not include design or engineering costs, operations or maintenance, or replacing or renovating any parks buildings. Those costs would roughly double current estimates. 

A new City Parks Master Plan is currently in the works and would provide a more precise estimate of the costs involved. Yet, councilors are hesitant to wait much longer to act. 

“Maybe there should be more than one source to take care of this,” Councilor Valerie Pratt said. “I think we need to be open to more than one funding source so we can get ahead of this and not play catch up and not be closing facilities and our parks just because they’re not maintained.” 

City staff will now bring further analysis of a possible parks fee to the council before the end of the year, along with options for a possible future bond or levy.