Letter to the editor: Vote yes on Library Levy Prop 1

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Editor:

As a lifelong library user and concerned citizen of Snohomish County, I urge you to vote “Yes” on April 24th for the Library Levy Prop. 1.

Libraries are essential to healthy, thriving communities. People of all ages and backgrounds enjoy and depend on the services offered at their community library. Children and teens benefit from reading programs, events and activities that encourage them to become good citizens. The Sno-Isle Library system depends on property tax funding for more than 98 percent of its operating budget to serve nearly 750,000 people in Snohomish and Island counties.

Your vote on the April 24th ballot is not for a new tax. It represents a 9-cent increase in the library operations levy, restoring the levy rate to 47 cents per $1,000. Restoration of the levy rate will enable Sno-Isle Libraries to continue current levels of library services and operations for an additional 7 to 10 years. If voters say “No” to the levy restoration, libraries will be forced to reduce staffing and hours open, as well as purchasing fewer books and materials and decreasing library programs and classes.

We spend so much time interacting with other people in virtual spaces, using our computers and phones. But as humans we still need real spaces, such as libraries in our communities where we can go for intellectual development, social interaction, and civic engagement. Please ensure that our libraries maintain the ability to support community needs by voting “Yes” on April 24th!

Sally Lider
Lynnwood

14 COMMENTS

  1. “Your vote on the April 24th ballot is not for a new tax. It represents a 9-cent increase in the library operations levy, restoring the levy rate to 47 cents per $1,000.”

    So in other words, an INCREASED existing tax. Sorry, that automatically gets a NO vote from our household. Libraries around here just seem to be shelters for drug addict bums anyhow.




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  2. The question for the library election is not one of do we need a library but rather how do we pay for it. With 98% of the library budget coming from property taxes and Edmonds with a much higher property tax base we pay more for our library services than others in the county. In effect we are heavily subsidizing others in Snohomish and Island Counties. City and Library data show we are paying about $1.3-1.9M more than our neighbors for the same service. We are subsidizing others.

    A yes vote would put into place a taxing model that could raise our current payment of $3.6M to between $5-7M. The range is based on yearly home value increases of 5-10% respectively. Over the last 4 years we have averaged 10% growth.

    Library funding depends on reserves and tax revenues. Reserves are projected to be at their highest in the last 5 years the end of 2018 and the total budget will be increased in 2019 with current taxes.

    A no vote will set the stage for the City to negotiate a contract for library services just as we have for other services.




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    • Hi Darrol,

      The levy vote is not about any contract (Edmonds or otherwise) and actually impacts all 23 branches across the two-county system. A “no” vote means that Sno-Isle will have to cut services and staff, including potentially library hours. A “yes” vote means they can maintain their current excellent level of service.

      Again, as a system, it’s important to remember that the taxes paid go into Sno-Isle’s funds that tries to ensure equal access to information and resources across the entire system. Sometimes that means a person from Mountlake Terrace or Mukilteo (or even Darrington or someone on Whidbey!) will request an item from Edmonds. And, fortunately, they are able to get that resource. Additionally, if an item you want is in Arlington, you can request it and get it sent to Edmonds. You don’t just pay into the Edmonds Library, you have the librarians and all their physical resources, digital and programs from 23 branches on your Sno-Isle card. That’s a good deal!

      While I understand your concern about the high level of property values in Edmonds, I think it’s worthwhile to think from a larger perspective. It’s a slippery slope to consider that the $400,000-household is subsidizing the $200,000 household…and both are being subsidized by the $1,000,000 household! Additionally, if I drive across a new road in another city, are they subsidizing my travel since I didn’t fund that infrastructure? That chain of thinking could go on forever…

      Again, I think it’s important to remember that the upcoming levy vote is solely about the levy rate and nothing else. Sno-Isle promised 5 years in 2009 and stretched it to 9 years. That sound financial management matters.

      I’m happy to join with the YMCA of Snohomish County, United Way of Snohomish County and the many local mayors (Lynnwood, Mukilteo, Arlington, etc.) and school boards that will be voting YES for Sno-Isle this April.

      Luke
      Edmonds, WA




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      • Luke, I gave you a thumbs up for outlining the current library position. In another post you gave links to budgets over the years. I have looked at all that are posted and cannot find any 2019 budget that shows projected revenues and expenses. I have however been able to estimate the 2019 budget and it does not show that a $2m reduction would be necessary to balance the budget.

        Edmonds has 5.8% of the population served but pays $8.1% of the cost. If we paid only our fair share we would have enough funding to repair our roads, so visitors and residents alike could use our infrastructure. The dollars we export could be used here at home.

        Hopefully the library system would be willing to discuss new funding models that would be more equitable. A Yes vote would simply keep the old system in place for several more years, but a No vote may serve as a wake-up call to see what could be done to make the funding more equitable. The expense side of the budget could also be reviewed to reduce the cost to Edmonds taxpayers.




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        • Darrol,

          I believe (and ask Sno-Isle as I am not a SI employee) they are working on 2019 budget scenarios given the upcoming levy vote, hence that info is not yet available. I would encourage you to go visit Edmonds (or another branch) and meet with staff as they are going to be able to provide you with the best info.

          Have you seen this document: https://www.sno-isle.org/assets/13051/13051_20180320042916.pdf

          Every year after Sno-Isle has saved funds from the higher rate levy years, they must transfer that cash out of reserves to add to the collected revenue to meet the budget. In there you will see where the shortfall comes in 2019 as they turned a promised 5 years into 9 years.

          Hope that is helpful!

          Cheers, L




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  3. I would advise NO on Library levy…funding for the Library needs to be taken back to the drawing board for some plan that is more sustainable…Levies are not the way!




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    • DW, The city has already used other alternative funding methods for other services like fire so these concepts are not new. It may well be time to work with Sno-Isle to find a more equitable way.

      When we set up the current fire model we immediately save $2m and that savings per year continues today. If we were saddled with the planned. $1.50/1000 model our costs would go up substantially and eliminate all the savings we currently enjoy.

      The SERS 911 radio system is now being reviewed for replacement. The estimate is $75m. Using the property tax model for funding would cost Edmonds $6m as compared to a household tax model which would cost $4m.

      Our elected officials have a duty to provide us with the “Best possible services, at the lowest possible costs, consistent with sound financial management. Saving us a $1m here and a $1m there would go a long way to funding projects we need here in Edmonds.




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  4. When city council reviewed lower cost alternatives to having our own fire department consideration was given to joining FD1 (Fire District 1). It was soon determined that a better alternative would be to not join FD1 but to contract with them for fire service. That has proven to be a very cost-effective decision, as Darrol has mentioned. What I believe the city now needs to do, with a YES or NO decision on the levy increase, is to terminate the current arrangement ASAP. The city then needs to negotiate a contract with the Library District to provide library service, with the city continuing to provide the library building. That’s the kind of deal that we have with FD1 and it saves us money, since our home values are much above the average for those in FD1 as well as the remainder of the Library District.




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    • Ron, I believe that was the case before the library annexation in 2001 (it is before my time in Edmonds), and any change to the contract is done by a vote, city/council cannot terminate the agreement.




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      • Luke, I did check the doc you referenced in the post above along with the budgets going back to 2006. The web site is lacking in some specific details but the overview numbers help understand the historical budget data. I have reached out to the management and hope to learn more in the near future. Thanks for your comments.




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      • I’ve now done some additional research and have learned that just like city council authorized a vote on the annexation – that took effect January 1, 2002 – they could now authorize a vote to terminate the annexation.




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