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Sno-Isle libraries plead for support

Kathryn O’Brien and her sons Patrick, 5, and Clay, 2, spent Thursday afternoon browsing over several good books at the Langley Library. If the a new library levy fails in the upcoming election, library patrons — including those at the Langley Library — will face at a $214,000 reduction in library materials and a one-week closure of all libraries in the Sno-Isle Regional Library System. - Jennifer Conway
Kathryn O’Brien and her sons Patrick, 5, and Clay, 2, spent Thursday afternoon browsing over several good books at the Langley Library. If the a new library levy fails in the upcoming election, library patrons — including those at the Langley Library — will face at a $214,000 reduction in library materials and a one-week closure of all libraries in the Sno-Isle Regional Library System.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

It was surprise and confusion that caused the Sno-Isle Library Levy to fail in February.p This week, Mary Kelly, the community relations manager for the Sno-Isle Regional Library System, said it was simple misperceptions that caused so many people to vote no on a 4-cent levy rate increase last winter.p “People generally were surprised,” she said.p She said many voters thought it was a new tax, rather than a small increase on an existing levy.p On Nov. 4, the levy issue will be back on the ballot, but Sno-Isle will be using a different approach to convince voters to bump their library tax rate from 46 cents on every $1,000 of property value to 50 cents.p Kelly said Sno-Isle has taken an “over-communication” approach since February, with of meetings and mailings to get Island and Snohomish county voters up to speed on shortfalls the library system will face if the levy fails again. The library system has held a series of public meetings to explain to taxpayers how and where library money is spent.p In the February election, the library system’s new levy rate measure was approved by Island County voters, but failed in the much larger Snohomish County. Of the 241,690 registered voters in Snohomish County, only 29 percent of them actually voted in the special levy election. p Kelly said Sno-Isle is now in the middle of making its budget plans for 2004. The system has two different budget plans, based on whether the levy fails or passes.p If the levy fails, Kelly said the library system will have an $800,000 shortfall. To accommodate for those losses, every library in the Sno-Isle system would close for an entire week. The system’s materials budget would also lose $214,000, which would have otherwise been spent on new books and videos. On South Whidbey, the Clinton library would also close on Saturdays.p The ballot measure is a proposal to raise the library system’s levy rate back to the pre-Initiative 747 millage. If approved, an additional $2.4 million will be generated from property taxes for library services in 2004, which according to Kelly is exactly the same number in cuts and deferred spending made in 2002 and 2003.p If the measure is approved, a home owner with a $150,000 house in Island County would pay $75 toward supporting libraries in 2004, about $5 dollars more than 2003.p Currently Kelly said about 580,000 people have the opportunity to use the Sno-Isle libraries. In 2002, over 2.5 million visits were made to the libraries.p Unlike most of Sno-Isle’s other libraries, Langley’s library is funded with money taken from the city’s general fund. Because Langley contracts for the libraries services and money is taken out of the city’s property tax levy, city residents do not pay on a library levy, as the rest of Island County’s residents do.p Just because the city of Langley residents do not get to vote does not mean they will not feel the impact of a failed levy, according to Kelly. Langley would also face the one week closure, as well as a reduction in new library materials.p On Thursday, Clinton resident Kathryn O’Brien brought her two sons, Patrick and Clay to the Langley Library. She said the increased awareness about the Library Levy will definitely bring her to the voting polls on Nov. 4. While growing up in California, O’Brien’s mother — who was a librarian — taught her how libraries are an invaluable service.p O’Brien said she visits a Sno-Isle library at least once a week with her children.p “This library system is one of the best,” said O’Brien.p The levy needs a simply majority to pass. If it does, the levy will be restored on Jan. 1, 2004 for one year, and would likely drop again in 2005 and every year after since all taxing agencies are limited by I-747 to earning no more than 1 percent more tax income from one year to the next.

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