Langley considers annexation to Sno-Isle system

Langley is exploring the possibility of annexing the city to the Sno-Isle Libraries district.

The switch wouldn’t affect library services, only the way they’re funded.

Instead of coming from the city’s general fund, money for the library would be provided by a property-tax levy paid by city residents. The levy would be the same as that currently paid by residents in unincorporated areas of Island County.

“It would definitely help us out,” said Mayor Paul Samuelson, who with other city officials is looking into the switch.

It would also give city residents a voice on library services at the ballot box, he said.

Samuelson will update the city council on his research into annexation at its meeting next week. The meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 21, at city hall on Second Street. A council workshop is at 4 p.m.

Langley has contracted with Sno-Isle to provide library services since 1961. The city’s projected contract fee for this year is $44,117.

City residents currently pay indirectly for library services by taxes and fees that go into the city’s general fund. Annexation would allow the city to use that money for other city services, supporters say, especially during difficult financial times.

Residents in unincorporated areas of Snohomish and Island counties, and those in cities that have annexed to the system, currently pay 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That means the owner of a home assessed at $300,000 would pay $120 this year.

By state law, the levy is capped at a maximum rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

According to the terms of the city’s contract, Sno-Isle provides staff, equipment, materials and library services. The city owns and maintains the 88-year-old building at Second Street and Camano Avenue.

If the annexation is approved by voters, the city’s volunteer Library Board would continue to oversee operation of the building.

All that would remain the same, but library funding would be equalized between city residents and those outside the city who use the library, said Mary Kelly, Sno-Isle community relations director.

“Annexation would ensure stable library service long-term for the community,” Kelly said.

“It’s a way for Langley to use its money in other ways, and the library wouldn’t be at the whim of whatever the city’s financial situation is,” she added.

Samuelson said annexation would be achieved from the bottom up. The Library Board would recommend it to the city council, which would reach an agreement with Sno-Isle. Then the issue would be put before city voters and decided by a simple majority.

Kelly said if the city decides to go for annexation, the issue probably would be put on November’s General Election ballot.

Langley and Stanwood are the only two remaining cities in the Sno-Isle system that have not annexed. On Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor annexed in 1983 and Coupeville in 1999.

Clinton and Freeland residents already pay the property-tax levy to maintain their libraries because they are in unincorporated areas.

Sno-Isle services 21 libraries. Seventeen cities in the two counties have opted for annexation, Kelly said.

The original section of the Langley Library was built in 1922 and recently was included on the city’s register of historic buildings.

The library was expanded twice, in 1980 and 1994.

Today, head librarian Vicky Welfare and a staff of nine circulate an average of 11,000 volumes per month and serve more than 5,900 registered patrons.

Library resources include dozens of online informational databases and various media formats, as well as the latest best-sellers.

Kelly said annexation is the best way for city residents to have a say about library services.

“We like to give residents the opportunity to make decisions,” she said.

Samuelson said annexation is up to the city council and city residents, but added:

“I think it would benefit the city, Sno-Isle and the community.”

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