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Metropolitan Park District Finance

This page provides financial information for metropolitan park districts in Washington State, including taxation and debt authority, administration, and comparisons with park and recreation districts.

New legislation: Effective July 23, 2017, SSB 5138 makes some changes to how metropolitan park districts can be formed. Most notably, there is an option to form an MPD with limited purpose and taxing powers for specifically identified public parks or recreational facilities. When such a proposition is placed before the voters it must state the levy rate on the ballot, which then becomes the maximum levy rate of the MPD.

Metropolitan Park District Property Tax Levies

A metropolitan park district (MPD) is a junior taxing district that has two regular property tax levies available - one of $0.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation (AV) and one of $0.25. They are considered as a single levy (up to $0.75) for the purposes of the 1% annual levy limits in chapter 84.55 RCW, which sets limits on the amount by which a levy can be increased (RCW 35.61.210). However, the levy rate could potentially be reduced through prorationing, and the two portions of the levy have different rankings in the prorationing statute (RCW 84.52.010).

Any taxing jurisdiction, including a metropolitan park district, that is levying property taxes at a rate lower than its maximum rate can ask the voters to lift the levy lid by more than one percent. A simple majority vote is required. For more information, see our Levy Lid Lifts page.

A metropolitan park district may also impose one-year excess levies, subject to 60% voter approval and minimum validation (turnout) requirements. See RCW 84.52.052, RCW 35.61.210, and Washington State Constitution, Art. 7, Sec. 2(a).

Fiscal Administration

The ex officio treasurer of the district must be the county treasurer of the county within which all, or the major portion, of the district lies, unless otherwise designated by the district (RCW 35.61.180). If the district boundaries are coterminous with the boundaries of a city, the city may act as the district treasurer. Otherwise, the district can designate a different treasurer only if the board has received the approval of the county treasurer. If the district is someone other than the city or county treasurer, the treasurer must be bonded.

If the district is using the county treasurer, the district's tax revenues must be placed in a separate fund within the county treasurer's office to be known as the "metropolitan park district fund" and paid out on warrants (RCW 35.61.210). 

Contracts are to be by competitive bidding or small works roster (35.61.135). For more information, see our pages on Purchasing and Contracting and Small Public Works Rosters.

Debt Authority

Metropolitan park districts may issue general obligation debt in an amount equal to 2 ½ percent of their assessed valuations. (RCW 35.61.110)  Of this 2 ½ percent, ¼ percent may be nonvoted (also called councilmanic) debt. (RCW 35.61.100) The rest must be voted. The source for repayment of nonvoted debt is the district’s general fund. For voted debt, debt service is paid from an excess property tax levy, which must be passed by a 60 percent vote, with an election turnout of at least 40 percent of those voting in the last general election. (RCW 84.52.056 and art. 7, sec.2, of the constitution.) This debt must be used for capital purposes (RCW 84.52.056) and can issued for a maximum of 20 years. (RCW 35.61.100)

Districts may also issue all kinds of short-term debt: tax anticipation notes, bond anticipation notes, revenue anticipation notes, grant anticipation notes as well as use lines of credit. (RCW 35.61.100)

Comparing MPDs with Park and Recreation Service Areas and Districts

Almost completely across the boards, metropolitan park districts offer more fiscal capacity and flexibility. This is particularly true for its property tax levy. First, the MPD levy is less subject to prorationing. Although MPDs formed on or after January 1, 2002 are further down the ladder than one formed before that date, anything is better than being absolutely the first districts to have their levy cut if prorationing is necessary. That is the situation for park and recreation districts and service areas. MPDs also have a higher maximum levy - 75 cents per thousand dollars AV versus 60 cents. In addition, the MPD levy is voted on by the legislative body and is permanent. Park and recreation districts and service area levies are subject to a vote of the people at least every six years and setting the levy requires a 60 percent majority with a 40 percent voter turnout.

Park and recreation service areas have slightly more generous debt limits than MPDs, having the ability to levy nonvoted debt in an amount equal to 3/8 percent of assessed valuation compared to ¼ percent for MPDs. The total amount - voted and nonvoted - is the same 2 ½ percent of assessed valuation. Park and recreation districts may incur nonvoted debt in an amount equal to ¼ percent of assessed valuation and the total limit is 1 ¼ percent of AV.

Last Modified: November 29, 2018