Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: PenMet parks make Gig Harbor better

Posted on October 24th, 2023 By: Laurel Kingsbury

I grew up in Tacoma, my husband in Gig Harbor, and 12 years ago when we were living in Tacoma but looking to buy a home together we had quite the debate as to which location we should settle in. When the perfect-for-us house became available in the Harbor the debate was settled and over the bridge we went. We had a 10 month old baby and were expecting our second and although everything was new and not quite familiar to me, I knew we were lucky to have found a house to call our own in a neighborhood where we could put down roots.

We landed near Sehmel Homestead Park, PenMet’s flagship park. That first weekend here we hit the trails through the woods over the meadow past the Master Gardens, beyond the ball fields and up to the playground. I was filled with a sense of joy, satisfaction and reassurance that we had indeed ended up in the right place.

What an amazing park!

And for the next 12 years the recreation and park activity that PenMet has maintained, sustained and provided has played a crucial role in creating and cementing a sense of home and community here in Gig Harbor for me and my family. The dog park, Narrows Beach, De Molay, summer camps, STEM classes, festivals, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, more summer camps, Rosedale Hall, Cookies with Mrs. Clause, Arletta Schoolhouse, concerts, pickleball, trails, trails and more trails and soon a beautiful, modern indoor recreation center — all of it and much, much more add up to create an incalculable value added to our home, our community and the life we are building here.

I’m so grateful we made the choice to purchase a home here on this side of the bridge, and PenMet Parks plays no small factor in why I’m satisfied, happy and content to call this place home.

As you may or may not know, there is a levy lid lift on the ballot for PenMet. I personally believe it is crucial for this to pass, however unfortunately, there have been some misleading and misguided messaging surrounding the subject. So I thought it might be easiest if I included some of the frequently asked questions, and encourage everyone to check out PenMet’s website to find accurate information before you decide which way to vote.

Q: What is the expected levy amount over the next six years?

A: The additional revenue is actually a projected range – anywhere from about $13.8 million if assessed values remain flat, up to $24.6 million based on the 6% maximum levy lid lift. For context, the 2024 assessed values have been established at 1.1%. This funding accounts for more than 80% of the District’s general fund revenue.

Q: What is the threshold for the levy to pass in November, and what kind of fiscal impact would the District face if the levy renewal fails?

A: The levy would pass if a simple majority of residents vote in favor of the levy renewal. If it fails, the District’s annual levy limit would be capped at 1% under state law. This could result in a 28% reduction in revenue compared to the 2017 rate, impacting our parks, basic services, and capital investments.

Q: Why do they need these funds?

A: These funds are essential to sustain parks and recreation programs at current service levels and fulfill the priorities established by the community. Our community has identified the need for more amenities, access to trails, forests, saltwater shorelines, and programming for all ages and abilities. It’s about providing access and opportunities for everyone in our community.

Q: If the District’s levy is approved in November, how is this not a new tax and a burden on taxpayers?

A: The District is only asking residents to renew the levy approved by voters in 2004 and again in 2017. This levy has been the cornerstone of the District’s funding for years.

Q: If voters in 2017 approved a levy rate of $.75 per $1,000 of assessed value, how is it that the levy rate eroded over the last six years?

A: This erosion is tied to state constitutional limits on annual levy increases. The 1% annual limit on levy increases, coupled with increases in property values, has caused the levy rate to drift downward.

I’m so grateful to live in this community, and having a robust, thriving, and exceptional park district is a cornerstone of that gratitude. I believe that what PenMet has been able to provide and maintain is a testament to our collective dedication to recreation, nature, and the well-being of all who call Gig Harbor home.


Laurel Kingsbury

Gig Harbor

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