Change is coming to the North Jeffco Park and Recreation District, executive director Mike Miles said.
Just what the change entails depends on the May 2 North Jeffco mill levy and bond issue vote.
The North Jeffco district is “community based recreation,” dictated by the wants and needs of the community, he said.
If the district’s proposed mill levy increase and bond issue do not pass, Miles said cuts should be made to stabilize the financially struggling district — cut that will be visible to members of the community, he warned.
Long-term maintenance issues in aging facilities and lower tax revenues drove district officials to propose a mill levy increase and bond issue this year.
Reaching from Highway 93 to the west, Sheridan Boulevard to the east, West 52nd Street the south and West 88th Street to the north, the North Jeffco Park and Recreation District includes most of Arvada in its district.
Residents can vote May 2 on increasing the district’s operating mill levy, as well as a bond issue to build a new center on the district’s east side.
The North Jeffco district was formed in 1956 as a 4-mill tax special district. After several drownings in area waterways in the mid 1950s, concerned citizens felt forming the North Jeffco district and building a community pool for safe swimming was necessary.
The North Jeffco Pool, now called Fisher Pool, was completed in 1958 and became the first of many recreation facilities.
As the years passed, many district facilities started to fall into disrepair, Miles said, at a rate faster than the district could fix.
Maintenance issues were aggravated during the 1990s, when district officials started to focus on acquisition of facilities and property rather than repairs.
“Maintenance issues were put on the back burner in the face of a priority for development and acquisition due to the number of grant money out there,” Miles said.
Meanwhile, the operational mill levy used to fund the district was limited in the 1990s because of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights restrictions.
“Our expenses were growing faster than growth in the district,” Miles said. “As TABOR ratcheted down district mills, expenses went up.”
Currently, the district is at a 2.68 mills, down from 4 mills.
When Miles became executive director of the district in April 2002, he started evaluating all district facilities and programs.
Many maintenance problems were found, Miles said.
Earlier this year, district staff requested $1,323,000 in maintenance and repairs. But Miles could only authorize $550,000. That gap in funding, he said, will only grown unless the mill levy is increased.
In the last six years, North Jeffco has proposed an operational mill levy increase three times. Voters have turned down the proposal each time.
In its 50 years, North Jeffco has not increased its mill levy, according to marketing director Faith Gregor.
Since April 2002, North Jeffco has cut 15 full-time jobs, frozen staff salaries for 21 months, shortened facility hours and cut programs to meet budgets and maintain existing operations. But more still needs to be done to bring maintenance issues up to par.
“Each time we had an election we went back and cut something else, each time it had minimal impact on users,” Miles said. “This time that isn’t the case. We have done everything internally we can to keep from affecting the community. That will change if this is not passed.”