UPDATE | Early support strong for Langley library annexation

It looks like Langley won't go without a library, thanks to city voters.

Residents appear to be overwhelmingly approving annexation to the Sno-Isle Libraries District, according to early election returns released on Tuesday night.

The annexation was passing with a 79 percent “yes” vote; 349 votes had been cast in favor of the proposal, and 88 against, in the first vote tally released by Island County late Tuesday.

A simple majority of the vote is needed for the measure to pass.

Annexation means Langley residents will pay more in property taxes to continue library service, relieving the hard-pressed city from continuing to contract with the two-county library district.

Annexation would take effect in 2012. The city has budgeted for library services through 2011.

“I’m very happy,” Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson said Tuesday night. “It shows the Langley community understands the complexity of the issue for the city, and that it really, really supports the library.”

Jonalyn Wolf-Ivory, Sno-Isle director, said the vote means Langley will have a stable source of funding for its library into the future.

“It will continue to be the same level of service,” she said Tuesday night. “The change will be completely invisible to library users. We’re used to it.”

Langley has contracted with Sno-Isle since 1961. The city's contract fee for this year is about $48,000. Next year's contract will be $51,396.

City residents have been paying indirectly for library services by taxes and fees that go into the city's general fund. But annexation means the city will be able to use that money for core services, while city residents will pay for library services the same way other residents on Whidbey Island do.

Under annexation, city residents will pay, beginning next year, the additional 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value that’s currently levied for library services in unincorporated Island and Snohomish counties, and by cities in the two counties that have annexed to the district.

That means owners of a home assessed at $300,000 will pay $120. By state law, the levy is capped at a maximum rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, library officials said.

According to the terms of the city's current contract, Sno-Isle provides staff, equipment, materials and library services. The city owns and maintains the building at Second Street and Camano Avenue.

With annexation, the city's volunteer Library Board will continue to oversee operation of the building.

Library officials say annexation means that library funding will be equalized between city residents and those outside the city who use the Langley library.

Failure to approve annexation might have meant the eventual closing of the library, and the loss of library services by city residents at other Sno-Isle branches, city officials said.

Langley and Stanwood were the only two cities in the Sno-Isle system that had not annexed to the library district.

On Whidbey Island, Langley now will join Oak Harbor, which annexed in 1983, and Coupeville, which annexed in 1999.

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