It’s no exaggeration that, following my five years of service (2002-2007) as City Manager of the City of Mt. Shasta, a significant reason why my wife Mary and I decided to retire in Mount Shasta for life upon retirement are the excellent facilities and assets of the Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks District, which represent a perfect complement to the natural beauty, splendor and ambiance – and the ultimate value of enjoyment – of this exceptional community.
Virtually all the 14 communities I’ve served over the course of my local government management career since 1971 have included parks and recreation facilities and programs, which substantially contributed to their quality of life, sense of community, civic pride, and by extension, also their property values. Mount Shasta enjoys perhaps the most extensive array of parks and recreation facilities I’ve seen for a community its size, and it is increasingly imperative as they age that they be effectively and responsibly operated, maintained, repaired, replaced and, when the time comes, expanded and/or added to based on evolving community desires and priorities.
However, parks and recreation programs and facilities are among the most challenged components of local government since they are, for the most part, supported by general funds, primarily property taxes, which are among the most volatile of all revenue sources, and most susceptible to disruption and decreases (often substantial) during all too frequent and unpredictable economic downturns. As a stand alone special district, MSRPD is spared the direct competition for precious General fund revenues with police, fire and other services it would have to contend with if part of a city organization (which tends to intensify during such times of resource scarcity).
Yet there nonetheless comes a time, despite that advantage, and no matter how well managed otherwise, when it becomes increasingly evident that additional, more stable and reliable funding will be necessary to more cost effectively meet current and projected long term needs. That historical time of reckoning for MSRPD is now, which is being responsibly, professionally and transparently presented to the Mount Shasta community in the form of a well-conceived proposed new parcel tax, Measure V.
Much like parks and recreation programs, facilities and districts, a California Bay Delta levee improvement district I recently managed had also been hit hard financially by the “great recession” due to its own nearly total dependence on property tax revenues. Similar to the MSRPD Measure V effort, that district proposed a Proposition 218 Assessment District revenue enhancement and stabilization measure, which gained the confidence and support of, and was ultimately approved by, the community. Its success dramatically improved BIMID’s future financial prospects and solvency for improved levee management and long deferred major levee capital improvement projects (including meeting local share or matching eligibility requirements for major State grants that would otherwise have remained out of its reach). I would strongly contend such would similarily be the case for MSRPD with the passage of Measure V.
All that said, after working closely with MSRPD while Mt. Shasta City Manager, and since then helping it pursue Rotary community grant opportunities, I’ve carefully reviewed Measure V and the financial and organizational background analysis that gave rise to it. I find it to be a carefully crafted, intelligently presented proposal that is completely out front with the community as to why it is needed, how it is to be structured, and the professional accountability with which it will be managed and implemented. Recent Mount Shasta Herald articles highlighted both MSRPD’s recent 70th anniversary celebration, and approval by its board of directors of a temporary stopgap measure to address serious problems with its aging sewer system. That is just one of the several components of MSRPD’s facility infrastructure, some even much older than MSRPD itself, much in need of significant repairs and upgrades that will benefit directly from Measure V’s additional revenue base by better enabling more permanent resolution of such problems rather than such quick fix stopgap measures or more to the point their avoidance altogether, by the more comprehensive financial and management capability Measure V will provide. Already long overdue, Measure V therefore deserves serious community consideration and support, all the more so since, as an addition to its original Measure P form, it now includes and exemption option for seniors aged 65 years and older.