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Public has chance to talk about library fate

The fate of Enumclaw’s public library could be decided during a pair of public meetings.

Both address the possibility of Enumclaw turning over operation of the library to the King County Library System. The idea has been tossed about the past two years as the city has looked at budgets that start with expenditures outweighing revenues.

The first meeting is tonight, Wednesday, at 7, when the seven members of the City Council discuss the topic during an open workshop. The workshop format allows the public to attend and listen the proceedings, but there is no room for citizen input.

Public comment will be taken during a public hearing slated as part of the next regular meeting of the council. That begins at 7 p.m. Monday.

The issue will likely boil down to dollars and cents, as well as levels of service for library patrons.

Presently, the library is funded from the city’s general fund, bolstered by money from property taxes, sales taxes and other sources. Enumclaw’s general fund has been hit hard the last couple of years, a situation common to most cities and towns. Library funding was hit hard when city administration and council crafted the 2011 budget; both hours and staff have been reduced.

Libraries in the county system are funded by a tax levy, with money going directly to library operations. District property owners pay at a rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That means the owner of a home and land assessed at $250,000 pays $125 annually into the system.

Asked how that amount compares to what Enumclaw residents currently pay for library service, City Administrator Mike Thomas said it’s difficult to make comparisons. Tonight’s council workshop might help clarify the financial picture, he said.

If the library is turned over to the county system, it would require a vote by Enumclaw residents. The vote would most likely occur April 26 and, if that is to occur, the council will have to authorize the vote during its Monday meeting, Thomas said.

A public library has been supported by Enumclaw taxpayers since 1922, when a small library shared space in the city municipal building. In 1929, it moved to the Stevenson home, which sat at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Wells Avenue and had been donated to the city. In 1953 the home was razed and the current building was constructed, still home to the library. The library moved to its present location in 1991 after city residents approved a bond issue that paid for the facility.

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