Those who enjoy the services provided by libraries in Bonney Lake, Buckley and Sumner can breathe a bit easier these days. The margin was razor-thin, but voters throughout the county approved a funding request by the Pierce County Library System.
A “levy lid lift” proposal was on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, but the fate of the library issue wasn’t decided until several days later. Needing a simple majority to pass, the measure appeared to have fallen short on election night. Library boosters cautioned that results were still trickling in – ballots had to be postmarked by the 6th – and the vote slowly narrowed.
By the time the election was certified, 106,844 citizens had cast “yes” votes, meaning the library issue had received 50.21 percent support.
Despite the slim margin, library leadership was upbeat. “This is a positive endorsement for the value the Library System brings to our communities,” Executive Director Georgia Lomax was quoted as saying in a district press release.
The district had been fairly straightforward when discussing the potential fallout should the levy request fail. Library hours would be cut and users would see reduced materials and programs throughout the countywide system. The biggest cuts to local communities would come in the form of outright closures, with two or perhaps three libraries shuttered for good. The libraries that might fall on the chopping block had not been identified.
Despite the dire warnings, district leaders were aware that voters often keep their pocketbooks in mind when filling out a ballot. And the library’s issue did not come without a financial impact.
Voters eventually agreed to restore the library system’s levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value – the legal limit. The rate, over time, had dropped to about 40 cents.
The current rate results in an annual tax bill in the neighborhood of $128 for the owner of property (buildings and land) assessed at $320,000. The Nov. 6 outcome will add $32 annually, bringing the library portion of the tax bill to $160.
The increase levy rate will be collected with the coming of a new year. There is an exemption, however, for senior citizens and people with disabilities; those meeting certain income guidelines cam be exempted from all or part of the local tax burden.
With passage assured, the library system noted it would be able to maintain current services, which include open hours at 20 locations and online library resources; 1.5 million books, e-books, movies and other materials; staff to support learning with thousands of classes and events; computers, Wi-Fi and technology; and community spaces.