Events are planned at two local libraries – Bonney Lake and Sumner – to provide the public with information about the ballot measure being forwarded by the Pierce County Library System.
The “Coffee with Your Librarian” sessions will address the funding PCLS says it needs to serve growing and changing communities. At the open houses, library leaders will be available to discuss the Nov. 6 ballot measure. If passed, the levy would restore the library system’s regular property tax levy rate.
Sessions are planned for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Bonney Lake library and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 24 at the Sumner branch; each is slated for 90 minutes. Also in the general vicinity is an open house beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 17 in Orting.
“At the drop-in coffee events we will talk with people about services the library system would maintain with the restored levy as well as services we would reduce or eliminate without additional funding,” said PCLS Executive Director Georgia Lomax. She noted that a community advisory committee analyzed system funding and took input from thousands of residents before recommending the ballot measure.
A restored levy would maintain library services and return the library’s levy rate to its full legal amount of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This would be an increase of approximately 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property. To the owner of a home assessed at $320,000 this would be approximately a $32 increase in their tax bill, beginning in 2019.
The library system maintains that the levy lid lift is necessary because costs to operate and maintain library services and libraries are increasing at a faster and higher rate than revenues. In recent years, costs have increased by an average rate of 4 percent to 7 percent a year, while property tax revenues have increased at an average rate of 1 to 3 percent. Property taxes make up approximately 94 percent of Pierce County Library System’s revenue. State law limits local governments, including the library district, to an increase in property taxes of no more than 1 percent (plus property taxes from new construction) annually.
Since 2006 the PCLS service area population has grown by 16 percent to 602,000 people and the number of people with library cards has grown by 63 percent to 323,000.
According to information provided by the PCLS, the restored levy would maintain services including 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.
Without the restored levy, according to the PCLS, the system would eliminate and reduce services including a 10 percent reduction in the hours libraries are open; there would be a 14 to 21 percent decrease in the number of books, movies and other materials and a 40 percent reduction in classes and events. More dramatically, levy failure could result in the closure of two or three libraries.