This November, the Metro Council is referring to voters Metro’s parks and nature proposed five-year local option levy, which if passed would provide funds to restore natural areas, operate parks, and support nature education and stewardship across greater Portland.
The proposed measure would continue an existing tax passed by voters and would not raise current tax rates. The first Metro parks and nature operating levy was passed by voters in 2013 and was subsequently renewed by voters in 2016.
If the proposed measure passes, the levy would continue to provide Metro funding to address water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and connect people with nature across more than 18,000 acres of parks, trails and natural areas.
If the proposed measure passes, the proposed levy would maintain the current property tax rate of $0.096 per $1,000 of assessed value – $24 annually for the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 – for an additional five years, beginning in 2023. If the proposed measure passes, the levy would raise approximately $19.5 million annually.
If the proposed measure does not pass, funding for these parks and nature programs would expire in June of 2023 and the annual tax rate would decrease.
Proposed levy program areas
If the proposed measure passes, the following program areas would be funded:
Habitat restoration and land management
If the proposed measure passes, at least 40% of levy funding would pay for Metro’s ongoing work to restore and maintain habitat on land it has acquired over the course of three decades through three voter-passed bond measures.
Regional park operations
If the proposed measure passes, at least 35% of levy funding would support visitor services, maintenance and facility improvements at Metro’s parks, trails, natural areas and cemeteries, so they are more welcoming, safe and inclusive, and meet or exceed standards for accessibility.
If the proposed measure passes, at least 15% of levy funding would continue to provide resources (financial and programmatic) to communities to support efforts to increase connections with nature. This includes culturally specific interpretive programs, materials and events, as well as grant funding for non-profit organizations for projects that support climate resilience, racial equity and access to nature.
Proposed measure priorities
If the proposed measure passes, the Metro Council has identified the following priorities for levy funds:
- Habitat: Improve habitat and habitat connectivity for plants, fish and wildlife at Metro’s parks and natural areas.
- Water quality: Improve water quality and water quantity at Metro’s parks and natural areas.
- Resilience: Manage Metro’s parks and natural areas to withstand hotter summers, extreme weather and wildfire.
- Climate adaptation: Work with local, state, federal, tribal and nonprofit partners to plan for regional climate adaptation and resilience.
- Native plants: Protect and restore culturally significant native plants in partnership with tribal nations and greater Portland’s Indigenous community.
- Accessibility: Improve the accessibility of Metro destinations for people of all ages and abilities.
- Inclusion: Ensure that Metro visitors of all backgrounds can access a variety of nature experiences relevant to their interests.
- Workforce equity: Increase the prosperity of historically marginalized workers and communities through levy funding.
- Contractor equity: Build capacity and experience of contractors from historically marginalized communities through projects at and with Metro.
- Engagement and accountability: Serve communities through inclusive, transparent and accountable engagement.
- Education: Design collaborative and culturally relevant education, including work with educators from historically marginalized communities.
If the proposed measure passes, the levy would be the foundation of the annual operations budget for Metro’s Parks and Nature department.
If the proposed measure passes, Metro would continue to publish the Parks and Nature Annual Report inform the public on how levy spending compares to the proposed program allocations. Metro would also continue to produce an annual financial audit conducted by an independent public accounting firm that would include local option levy expenditures.