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September 23, 2022

Boulder Creek Residents Weigh Parks District Parcel Tax

San Lorenzo Valley residents in Boulder Creek are gearing up to vote in a referendum on whether to pay $36 annually per parcel to support the Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks District.

The capital improvement measure that will show up on the Nov. 8 ballot as Measure T would go “To improve and build large capital and infrastructure projects, improve safety and enhance our aged buildings and parks, build new public and ADA accessible restrooms, replace ailing infrastructure of our Downtown and Bear Creek Facilities, and develop alternative green energy to power our public spaces, and utilize locally controlled funding with independent oversight,” according to the County of Santa Cruz’s elections department.

The proposed measure also allows for an increase of 3% each year as a cost-of-living adjustment. 

It will need two-thirds of voters to support it in order to pass.

BCRPD says it wants to use the money to install sustainable updates to park energy systems, make facilities accessible to people of all ability levels, add outdoor public restrooms to Junction Park and look at a new roof and generator for its downtown location, among other projects.

On Wednesday, locals expressed a range of views on the voters’ initiative.

Boulder Creek resident Jack Chatoff, 23, remembers when the park district wanted to build a recreation center near his home in the area of Grove and Boulder streets.

“There was a lot of debate back and forth,” said the Eagle Scout, during a lull in business at Boulder Creek Hardware, where he works.

Chatoff’s dad would drag the then-Boy Scout to community meetings to discuss the issue. He was against the project at the time and says he was glad it didn’t proceed.

“I wasn’t too thrilled because it would be right by my house,” he said, noting he’d worried it might invite too much activity nearby. “We see how the Junction’s becoming.”

But at this point, he’s not for or against the parcel tax.

“I’m neutral,” he said. “I’m not as informed as I should be.”

But he thinks it is an important issue to consider.

“Obviously, we want better infrastructure,” he said. “It just takes proper management of funds.”

The argument against the measure, submitted by Boulder Creek homeowners Bruce Holloway and Karen Brown, says that the district can’t be trusted to properly manage the roughly $239,000 it will raise annually and leaders will likely rubber-stamp the 3% annual increase every year, further burdening residents.

“Let’s stop this now so parcel taxes don’t grow exponentially,” the argument reads. “Districts should face voters whenever they raise taxes.”

But Emelia Nahinu, the owner of Air and Fire: A Mystical Bazaar, says she doesn’t think the district is asking for too much.

“They do a lot for the community,” she said. “I feel like it would go to good use.”

She speaks from personal experience, based on how they help her with her daughter.

“They pick up my child from after-school care,” she said, adding she hopes they use the money to build public bathrooms. “I think it would be money well spent.”

Ric Kolyer falls on the other end of the spectrum.

“I’m not for it—not at all,” said the 62-year-old Boulder Creek resident, outside Wild Roots Market. “I’m not getting much out of it.”

He says he fears taxes will just end up in a general fund one way or another, rather than being applied to the specific issue they were meant to deal with.

“Generally, I say no to any increases in my taxes,” he said.

According to the impartial analysis of the measure, the district must follow certain accountability provisions during the tax’s 30-year lifespan. This includes creating a special account into which the proceeds would be deposited. The district would also be required to publish an annual report that contains information about the amount of taxes collected and expended, as well as the status of any projects funded by these proceeds. Finally, the district would establish a parcel tax oversight committee to review the expenditures of the parcel tax revenues.

Cameron Bond, 24, is another yes voice. His dad works for Redwood City’s parks department, so he understands how many different things these types of agencies handle.

“Anything to help those guys out I think would be beneficial,” he said. “It provides a lot more community.”

He says he doesn’t hear people in Boulder Creek talking about the local district very much. But he believes what they do is even more needed, in some ways, than in Silicon Valley municipalities.

“It’s not like over the hill where there are millions of parks,” he said.

He says he’d like to see more events like the Lumberjack Days that might give youth something to do and convince residents to stick around instead of moving away.

Bond says the response to the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex proved just how strong the heart of the community is.

“Anything we can do to get it even better would be awesome,” he said.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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