Questions, answers and facts about the Sno-Isle Libraries operations levy

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory

Property taxes are a tough subject, but worth talking about.

Almost all of the money needed to operate the Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Brier libraries – and the other 19 community libraries in the Sno-Isle Libraries district – comes from an operations levy, which is on your annual property tax statement. Only 2 percent of funding comes from non-property tax sources. No operating money comes from the state and nothing from the federal government.

State law dictates that levy funding for a public organization like Sno-Isle Libraries can increase only 1 percent a year, along with a few exceptions.

However, no law places a 1 percent cap on annual library costs. Whether it’s the electric bill or gas for the bookmobile, the library pays increased costs like most of us. While we work to provide great library services within budget, over the years, funding just can’t keep up with expenses outside of our control.

Back in 2009, voters approved the library’s current operating levy. I promised at the time that we would not come back to the ballot for at least five years. We made the funding last nine years. How? By making practical decisions on spending.

You can see your money at work online and at your community library. You can talk to a librarian, check out a book, use the Wi-Fi, download an audiobook, attend an event or take an online class. No matter where you live, the library is available.

The Sno-Isle Libraries operations levy on the April 24 ballot asks voters to restore 9 cents to the levy rate. Why 9 cents? Because that’s all that is needed. If approved, the total rate would be 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The law allows a rate of 50 cents, but our successful track record shows we just don’t need to.

If voters approve the levy rate restoration in April, it would maintain library services. If voters reject the levy restoration, the budget will be reduced by $2 million in 2019 and continue to decrease in subsequent years.

I hope you will take the time to familiarize yourself with how your libraries are funded. More information is available at If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at

— By Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory
Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director


  1. So, another tax coming in April? Why isn’t there someone out there thinking new ways for funding?
    I never hear the annual report: salaries, expenses etc. I would like to hear that. Any cutting of costs?


  2. I have reviewed the recommended financial statements and calculated that revenue from property taxes has had a compound annual growth of 3.48% during the period of 2009 ($31.073M) to 2018($42.262M). The 9 cent increase being requested will drive up property taxes in 2019 by 23.7%, and on top of that will be the increase in property values. That is too much!


    • Hi Ron, the Sno-Isle levy only applies to their own rate, not “property taxes” as a whole, so saying someone’s “property taxes will go up by 23.7% in 2019” in relation to just the Sno-Isle levy is not accurate.

      For a $500,000 household, a $0.47/$1,000 Sno-Isle levy = $235/year, or just under $20/month.

      In 2012-2014 the Sno-Isle levy rate was actually $0.50/$1,000, higher than what the organization is asking for now.

      I would encourage you to visit the library and speak with staff as well 🙂 .


      • All of my comments were related to property taxes collected by the library; they are accurate and should be unambiguous.


  3. I have a couple of issues here, even though I am a huge fan of our library system. The first is what on earth does “restore 9 cents” mean? Is this a continuation of the existing levy is is it an increase? I watched the video that Sno-Isle sent out. It was a feel-good production that did not answer my basic question. Will I being paying the same rate if I vote yes, or will I be voting for an increased rate? As homeowners, we have a right to know. My second question is why this is coming up in April when we just had a levy vote in February? Each special election costs more money. My personal inclination is that the legislature needs to abolish special levy elections and make these go on the general election ballot in November. It will cost taxpayers less and there will be greater voter turnout.


    • Hi Carol,

      Voting yes would allow Sno-Isle to charge up to $0.47 per $1,000 value. The levy already exists, but requires voter approval to be raised. The 2018 rate is expected to be $0.38, so it would allow for a $0.09/$1,000 increase. I think the information on their website is more helpful than the video:

      Regarding the timing of the election, my understanding is that Sno-Isle did not want to “compete” with school levies (I think there were a total of 23 school levies on the February ballot within the two-county Sno-Isle system). I am not a Sno-Isle employee and don’t speak on behalf of the organization, that is just the feeling I got. I think your question about election costs is probably better for the Snohomish County elections office. I thought Sno-Isle had to pay for some/all but I’m sure someone at the Edmonds Library can answer that for you.


  4. The library budget has increased from $46.9m in 2014 to $57.1m in 2018. Tax payer revenue will increase for 2019 at the current tax rate. Raising the tax rate will not restore anything but an old rate levied when property values were lower. It will be a substantial increase. Further Edmonds median values for home is about $150,000 more than the rest of the county and Edmonds will pay about $1.3m more than our neighbors for the same number of households.

    Voting no will not lower the library budget it will already go up at the current tax rate. We should work on funding models that look more like per household or population. If we could find a better funding method we may be able to get Woodway to join in.


    • Hi Darrol,

      When the revenue exceeds the budget I believe Sno-Isle saves those amounts in order to not go back to voters for another increase. In 2009 when voters approved the last levy Sno-Isle projected that it could last for five years. The organization was able to stretch that out to NINE years, so instead of going back to voters in 2014, they are doing it now in 2018. When they didn’t need the money, they didn’t ask for it. There is a good chart which shows this on their website, here: (near the bottom of the page)

      The funding model is unfortunately a much larger question 🙂 .


  5. Thanks for the links, The reserves are larger now than in any of the budgets posted on the links. The current taxes collected on a per head basis using Snohomish County data is $53.5/person. Edmonds is paying $84.8/person. Using that same rate Edmonds would pay $2.2m. But we are currently paying $3.5m or $1.3m more. That is enough to restore our street overlay budget.

    The taxes collected at the current rate for 2019 will already be more than collected for 2018. The levy link suggests that without the new levy there will be budget cuts. The data in the budget does not support that statement.


  6. My look at the budget and the revenue growth shows for 2019 they will not be reducing budget. A no vote may open the door to a better funding method.


  7. (copy and paste from earlier, similar column)

    1. ST3 increase
    2. McCleary whopping tax increase
    3. Education levy increase

    and now..

    4. The Library levy

    No wonder Washington State and city governments are belching with excess revenues.

    To my knowledge, no taxpayer has gotten a salary/pension/Soc Security percentage increase that matches the increases in taxes?? Or did I miss something?




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