Library group opposing levy

Opposing sides are lining up as Enumclaw prepares for its great library debate.

The decision to be made is relatively simple: should the city of Enumclaw, after operating its own library for decades, annex into the King County Library System?

City voters will determine the fate of library operations during an April 26 special election. A simple majority “yes” vote would take the library out of the city’s hands and turn nearly everything over to the KCLS, which operates independent of King County government.

The city would retain ownership of the building, but everything else would be handled as the KCLS sees fit.

Members of the Enumclaw City Council voted unanimously in January to place the issue before voters. For the past two budget cycles, the city has noted than funding a library is becoming increasingly difficult in a sluggish economy.

Decreases in library funding have brought about reduced hours and staff cuts. For 2011, there was nothing in the city budget for additional library materials.

It has been noted Enumclaw and Seattle are the only King County cities to operate their own libraries.

Some who testified before the City Council offered their belief that county libraries provide better services and offer greater resources that a small city-run library can provide.

One group of ardent library boosters isn’t about to go down without a fight.

The Enumclaw Library Advisory Board is appointed by the mayor, charged with overseeing library operations and making recommendations. The board has no power, other than serving in an advisory capacity.

Members make it abundantly clear they’re not happy with the path the city has taken. They believe city leaders refused to consider what they consider a logical option to solve the funding dilemma.

Beyond that, individual members are peeved that, despite the “Advisory” in their name, the group was excluded from much of the library dialog.

The Advisory Board’s sour feelings on the matter go back at least to September, when – following a special board meeting – the group issued a statement including the following: “While the Library Board has been diligent in its efforts to work with the City Council and the administration in developing the right funding solution, it has been ignored and shut out of any and all work on this project. Sadly, the citizenry of Enumclaw has also been ignored and not included.”

At that time the board noted it would recommend a vote against annexation to the King County Library System.

Now that the council has taken formal action to place the annexation issue on the April 26 ballot, members of the Library Advisory Board have offered a new request: that the council reverse its course, pull the ballot item from consideration and launch a series of town hall meetings where citizens can be informed about options other than annexation to the KCLS.

Specifically, Advisory Board members have shown support for a levy lid lift, which would allow the city to collect additional taxes to support library operations.

If the annexation vote is approved, all Enumclaw property owners would become part of the KCLS, an independent taxing district that annually collects the legal maximum of 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That equates to $150 per year for owners of a $300,000 property.

The city now pays for its library operation from the general fund, supported by city property tax collections. The City Council has not said if city taxes would be reduced if annexation to the KCLS is approved.

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