Possible Madison recreation district faces some opposition
MADISON COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) - After a feasibility study was conducted, a campaign committee has prepared a proposal to place the creation of a recreation district in Madison County on a future ballot. Campaign committee chairman Kayley Fryar says voters might see the question of a recreation district as soon as May.
"We are being strategic. We'd like to see it pass. So ideally this May, but if we need to wait, we'll wait until November or even May of next year," Fryar said.
As the proposal continues to move forward, it was recently proposed in front of the Rexburg and Sugar City councils. After the meeting, the Sugar City City Council voted in opposition to the way the current proposal of a recreation district in the county is spelled out.
"They're against this proposal for a recreation district because what it looks like coming down is that when it was a Rexburg proposal. They had a location, they had a building design, and now it's that same location, same building design, but the whole county gets to pay for it," Sugar City Mayor Steven Adams said.
Adams adds if the taxpayers in the county will pay for it, are there other possibilities?
"We talked about if we're going to do a county one where are some other locations we could put it so it would make it advantageous to everybody," he said.
Adams believes while the recreation district can answer a perceived need in Madison County, he believes perhaps there are better ways to go about answering that perceived need.
"I believe that rec centers are fantastic for communities and I would love to have one in Sugar in Rexburg anywhere in the county. Those can be provided through for-profit or nonprofit organizations privately, but the private entities will never do it if the governmental entities are talking about doing it because they don't want to compete with the subsidized facility. And so as long as we keep signaling that the city or the county or somebody is going to tax for these services, then the private industry will not engage in that because they just don't want to be undercut," he said.
Adams states the biggest concern he has and a concern that is shared by the members of the city council is that the recreation center will be paid for by raising the county's property taxes. He contends perhaps it is better for recreation centers to be provided in other ways and not by one that will raise the taxes of ourselves and our neighbors.
Fryar says while the taxes will be raised it shouldn't be a large price point.
"I don't think anyone is excited about property taxes. So I don't think like that's not something someone's ever going to be excited about, even if it's a cent more. But this one is going to be $4.27 per $100,000 of property value. And then, of course, you can take out the 125,000 that you get in tax exemption," Fryar said. "So the average property here in Madison County will see about $8.54 a month raised to cover the rec district."
Adams also says even if the price point isn't very large, we need to be very careful if we use tax-based funding.
"We can find a way to get it done. And if we're going to use governmental taxation, you have got to do it in a very responsible, inexpensive way." He added, "And I think that's where our city council's going to come down on, is if we're going to do something, we use minimal force. We make it as simple and as affordable as possible. And there's got to be a full public benefit. And if that were the case, I think our council would probably support it."
If the vote on the recreation district is positive, the next step would be for the county to create a board that would then run that district. Fryar adds after that the board will look at how to implement a recreation center building and what goes in it.
"They can turn to the community and say, What exactly do you want on for a rec center? We can scale it down from what the feasibility study did. It's up to basically their decision and then they can do crowdfunding, any kind of private funding. So it's not necessarily the number that's on the feasibility study and that is what's going to happen after this. That can be an adjustment, but it'll be up to the rec district board members at that point."
Fryar says the campaign committee is going to continue gathering more signatures and make sure that when the question appears on the ballot it will be even more likely that it will pass. She added the community seems to really respond to the idea of a rec district and is supportive of it, but it will all hang on the vote.