Tisha Flora, a member of the city council, and Jeff Crowther, Rexburg’s recreation director, instructed members of the community on Thursday about how to establish a recreation district.
Madison County tried to establish a recreation district multiple times over the last 25 years. In 1997, a proposed recreation district failed to receive a majority vote. In 2004, the county put forth a bond for an indoor aquatics center that also failed.
Multiple studies conducted over the last decade revealed a desire for indoor recreation among those living in the county.
Last year, the City of Rexburg brought in PROS consulting to conduct a feasibility survey to answer questions about what features people would want in a recreation center, how much it would cost and how willing the community would be to pay.
“We on city council probably don’t go a week without somebody asking us why we can’t have an indoor pool,” Flora said. “This is really the reason why we did the feasibility study.”
Madison county doesn’t just cover Rexburg: It also includes Sugar City.
Flora said the city held meetings with the mayor of Sugar City, and the school board and superintendent in Sugar City to find partners to help reduce the cost of a potential bond.
Flora and Crowther emphasized the city’s neutral position in creating the recreation district many times throughout the event.
“The last thing that we wanted when we started this feasibility study was to ram something down the community’s throat,” Crowther said.
Flora said the meeting held an educational purpose so the city could educate potential volunteers and could pass the responsibility from the city to the community.
“The goal tonight is to give the community the information that you need to make a good decision and to decide if you’re willing to help put this on the ballot or not,” Flora said.
In order to be established, a recreation district must be voted on. To get the measure on a ballot, a petition needs to be signed with signatures from 20% of registered voters in the county.
The deadline for getting these signatures would depend on when they would want the issue on the ballot. Crowther said the deadline for May’s election would be Mar. 27, and the deadline for the November election would be sometime in September.
The recreation district needs 50% of the vote in order to be established.
If the district is established, members of the community would be elected to serve on a board to get input from the community on what features the recreation center should have and to send out bids to interested contractors.
The board’s proposals and the cost of the recreation center would then be put on a bond needing a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
Financing the district
A recreation district would immediately begin collecting taxes if passed. Flora said any money collected would be used for overhead and repair costs but could be saved to help bring down the cost of the bond before the recreation center is built.
Flora said the increase in property taxes ($4.27 extra per $100,000 of taxable property) could increase rent prices for students living in apartments. Since the university itself does not pay property taxes, properties owned by the university such as Center Square and University Village would likely not be affected if the recreation district passed.
Crowther encouraged those in attendance to get involved and help get the word out so everyone in the county has the opportunity to vote on the district.
“It’s gonna require a lot of people to be able to accomplish this,” Crowther said.
You can learn more about the feasibility study and receive updates on the project on the city’s website.