What will it cost to revitalize all the existing parks and recreation facilities? The second of four Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District public meetings focused on the funds the district may seek to fix and improve five parks.

“When you live in a healthy community with parks and all kind of activities, you're healthier,” district manager Michelle Vance said at the June 13 meeting that attracted more than 70 people. “That’s important to people; they believe that quality recreation is important.”

District officials said that fixing existing infrastructure, plus upgrading current facilities, is estimated to cost some $16 million over 30 years.

These funds would come out of a $43 million general bond measure that could go before voters in November. The rest of the money raised through a bond would be expected to go toward a new recreation center. 

A bond would have to be passed by a two-thirds vote.

“If you want to think of it in simpler terms, we are getting a mortgage and we are taking out a home equity line of credit on our facilities. We need to fix this,” Vance said at the meeting held at Aspen Builders Inc. Activity Center.

She added after the meeting: "We are asking right now: Where are your priorities? Is recreation a priority? Do you want to reinvest in your community?"

Residents offered input at the meeting by placing stickers on posters showing pictures of facilities they wish to see and commenting publicly. People could also write questions, the answers to which will be posted on the district website.

Public input

Some voters expressed opposition to a bond at the June 13 meeting.

“My three children are struggling with tax payments and I don’t want them to be burdened," said Beverly Billingsley, a resident of Sand Canyon.

She added that her children pay close to $2,000 in taxes annually on a house estimated to be valued at $200,000.

Tehachapi resident Carl Gehricke said, “I think $43 million dollars is a little expensive.”

Others were excited about the possibility of new recreation facilities.

“It is something I would vote for in a heartbeat,” said Fran Riggs, a Tehachapi resident who moved here from Orange County. She added, “If people don’t want to pay for this, they can move.”

Voter numbers, perspectives

There are 12,250 registered voters within the district, with a total estimated population of 22,796, according to slideshow presentations at the May 15 and June 13 meetings. This population includes the city of Tehachapi, Sand Canyon, Golden Hills, Keene and other areas.

The district boundaries leave out Stallion Springs, the California Correctional Institution and Bear Valley, even though these residents can use the park facilities, Vance said. 

A recent telephone survey interviewing 400 registered voters within city boundaries found that 63.5 percent are in favor of the bond after some education on it.

Voters against the project dropped from 31 percent to 29.3 percent after they learned more.

An additional 3 percent of voters contacted are leaning toward "yes" on a bond, with 2.8 percent undecided, it was announced at the May 15 board meeting. The bond needs at least 66.7 percent of voters to say "yes" to pass.

Tax questions 

Data breaking down Tehachapi dollars from the Kern County Assessors Office for 2016-2017 shows that the park district only receives $0.01719 from the total one percent property tax each year.

Hannah Chung, finance director for the city of Tehachapi, said that even though there is a special fund that can go toward projects for the park district, it has to be approved by the City Council; any amount does not automatically go to parks yearly.

Answers to how much people would be charged for various park uses, a maintenance assessment district or fixed fee per property, in which owners get to vote by mail in ballet, how much per $100,000 property assessment residents will pay, and floor plans for any new recreation center is all to be discussed at upcoming meetings. 

The next public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 28 at Aspen Builders Inc. Activity Center, 410 W. D. St.