I like public libraries. Do we need a Sno-Isle Library levy increase? The people in Washington spend more per person for public libraries than the people in 44 other states.
Sno-Isle is very near the Washington state average for spending per person. Not a bad thing.
Curiosity led me to look at the past budgets on the library website. Property tax revenue for the library went up steadily from $28.8 million in 2008 to $41.4 million in 2017, up 44 percent. Spending on salaries and benefits went up 63 percent. Both are pretty steep considering inflation for 10 years has been 18 percent and the population increase for our two counties has been 15 percent.
OK, so we spend a lot. Is the library going broke? Unrestricted reserves have increased from $9 million in 2008 to $21 million at the end of 2017. Looks like we used the windfall from the last tax hike to build up reserves and jack up staffing and wages until we outran the revenue. Property tax revenue for the library is expected to increase by 2 percent for 2018 without the levy increase. The salary and benefit increase proposed for 2018 is up 5.6 percent and we are spending $2 million on advertising to sell the levy increase to the voters. The proposed levy increase is not a small thing. If my math is right, the increase in the rate is over 20 percent and that means an additional $8 million every year.
The library board strategy seems to focus on a large levy for big reserves and unrestrained spending. Levy increases result in more costly housing — property taxes and rent. I would rather see current spending be more in line with current revenue and then show me exactly what a levy increase would be spent on. Some of us don’t respond well to the threats of reduced services. I vote no.