By JASON ECK
A group of community leaders will meet Thursday to explore the idea of a special district to provide stable funding for arts and sports programs in Tuolumne County.
Sonora City Councilwoman Liz Bass is spearheading the discussion. Her idea is to create a special district to generate guaranteed funding for county recreation and arts through the Central Sierra Arts Council. Representatives of both groups come before the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors annually in search of a share of limited county money.
The purpose of Thursday's meeting, which Bass said is open to the public, is to gather information on how a special district works and to see if there is community interest in further exploring the possibilities.
Bass said she raised the idea of expanding county pools about four years ago. She spoke to city and county officials about the idea but found little interest. She didn't forget the idea, and is now thinking along the lines of a special district for recreation and the arts.
If a special district was formed, "funding decisions affecting these programs would no longer be made by the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors," Bass wrote in a letter to community leaders. "Instead, those decisions would be made by the special district's elected board of directors."
Bass said such a district would have its own board, and taxes levied for the district could only be used for the programs it would manage. Bass envisions such a district would take in the programs now run by the Tuolumne County Recreation Department and give the Central Sierra Arts Council a permanent funding source.
Bass said creating such a district would require a lot of work and cooperation among many different agencies.
Debby Walker, director of the Planning and Facilities Division of the Mission Oaks Parks and Recreation District in Sacramento, will provide information about special districts and how one could work with existing parks and recreation agencies, the Tuolumne County Recreation Department, schools and the Central Sierra Arts Council.