Selah again seeks support for aquatic center M&O levy

The future of the Selah Aquatic Center will be on the ballot again this fall as the Selah Parks Foundation looks to secure maintenance and operations funding for the next six years.

After near-misses in 2018 and 2019, the Parks Foundation has decided to introduce a new levy proposal on Nov. 2 that would cost the average taxpayer less than $30 per year.

The levy proposal of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value is 33% lower than the rate requested in August 2019 — a measure that failed by just 50 votes. The proposal means the property tax rate on a $250,000 home would translate to about $2.10 per month, or $25 per year.

Aquatics Director Aimee Ozanich believes that’s a small price to pay for the many community benefits afforded by the pool at 214 S. Third St., which first opened in 2019.

“This is a huge community asset that benefits people of all ages,” she said. “It provides recreational opportunities for a lot of people, but it also serves as a training facility for our youth swim teams and our lifeguard staff.”

Ozanich pointed to the many Selah Aquatic Center programs that benefit young families, high-schoolers, middle-age lap swimmers and senior citizens. The pool also provides employment opportunities and experience for dozens of lifeguards every summer.

“We have Mommy and Me classes, all the way up to water walking classes for seniors,” she said. “We see lap swimmers in their 80s and 90s, and we also serve as a home base for our high school swimmers, who are among the best in the Yakima Valley.” 

The Selah Dolphins summer program helps train kids as young as 5 to become competitive swimmers, and eventually join the high school teams. Youth swim lessons are also a major draw, helping kids learn how to swim so they can safely swim in open water.

This summer, the Aquatic Center hosted approximately 500 children over nine weeks for morning and evening lessons. Dozens of families from Selah to Naches took advantage, while more than 40 local teenagers were able to earn a summer income.

“Our swim lessons are very popular, and they are essential to preparing kids to swim in the many rivers, lakes and streams in Central Washington,” said Ozanich, who also serves on the Selah Parks Foundation board of directors. “We also have such an amazing, supportive staff who are so proud to be able to help our community.”

The Aquatic Center has managed to tread water the past three years with the help of community donations, but in order to continue offering the current level of service — or any service at all — an M&O levy will be required for the next six years. 

Ozanich pointed out that, while the measure will start off at 10 cents per $100,000 of assessed value, that number can be reevaluated once the Aquatic Center builds up some reserves. At a minimum, the Aquatic Center must pay for staffing, insurance, cleaning and maintenance every year. Filing a ballot measure also isn’t cheap, costing between $12,000 and $24,000 each time.

“If we get to year two or three and things are going well, we can ask to reduce the tax rate,” she said. “We will probably need the 10-cents rate for a couple of years, but we will evaluate where we are every year and pass those savings on to the taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, the Parks Foundation is hoping the timing of this year’s election will help push the levy over the finish line this time around.

“We are hoping that the ballot will be more visible to voters in November than in August,” Ozanich said. “August elections aren’t really top of mind due to vacations and people being out of their normal routines. It always comes down to voter turnout, and we think more people will be paying attention in November than during the summer.”

Ballots were delivered to voters in early October.

If you would like to make a donation to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, visit selahaquaticcenter.org or call 509-698-2420. 

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Photo courtesy of Lara Swimmer Photography.

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