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V.  Park Financing

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All actions pursued by the Snohomish County Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) requires funding to support the effort. Funding for Parks is provided from a mix of sources. These include Snohomish County general funds, Real Estate Excise Tax (REET I and REET II), park impact mitigation fees, revenues generated at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, Conservation Futures funding (available through a formal review process led by the Conservation Futures Program Advisory Board), grants, donations and sponsorships. Two kinds of park impact mitigation fees are currently collected, State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and Growth Management Act (GMA) based impact fees. GMA based fees were implemented in 2005, replacing SEPA based fees, and are used to make level-of-service (LOS) based acquisitions and improvements for park facilities identified as ‘necessary to support development.’ SEPA based fees continue to be collected on buildable lots established before implementation of the GMA based fees and are used for capital improvements at parks within the area that the funds were collected. The Evergreen State Fairgrounds partially operates as an enterprise fund and a portion of revenues generated at the site are used for facility improvements. Revenues generated through user fees (e.g. camping revenues) are deposited into Snohomish County’s General Fund.

Parks generates revenues through a variety of methods, which are distributed back to the General Fund (with the exception of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds generated revenues), and which partially offset the funding provided for Parks operations. In 2012, Parks generated 72.1% revenue of the general funding received for that year. This equates to one of the highest return on investments for any park system in the United States.

Additional funding collection may be available to Parks through a variety of marketing strategies. These include such things as sponsorships, selling of naming rights and donations. For the first time, Parks has recently created and filled a marketing staff position to pursue these possibilities, both for the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, and for the entire Parks system.

Identification of funding for specific projects is determined each year through the county’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP allocates funding for the first year of the CIP then projects funding over an additional five years, taking into consideration different funding sources. Detailed information on the individual park projects is included in the Snohomish County Park Improvement Plan (PIP), which is adopted as part of the CIP. The PIP describes anticipated funding source(s) as well as the funding amount for each project.

Development of the annual CIP is cooperative process, involving Parks, Finance and the Executive and Council offices. Available funding and project priorities are reviewed and decisions made on which projects are selected for inclusion. Development of the CIP is informed by this Snohomish County Park and Recreation Element (Park Element) as well as the current Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Visioning Plan (PRVP), which identifies public park priorities. Adoption of the CIP typically occurs around the end of November each year and goes into effect on January first of the following year.

Included within the CIP is a ‘Parks - General Improvements’ line item which supports minor contracted and in-house capital improvements that are identified by Parks through an analysis of safety priorities, opportunities for enterprise development (increased return on investment), increases in efficiencies and effectiveness, partnerships, public input and other criteria that lead to project prioritization. Examples of work that has been funded through this line item include Americans with Disabilities Act improvements, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit improvements, playground enhancements, etc.