Commentary: Edmonds elected officials say ‘Yes’ to Sno-Isle Libraries levy

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With ballots arriving in mailboxes throughout Island and Snohomish counties, voters will have the option to ensure full funding for the Edmonds Library and the other 22 branches in the Sno-Isle System through 2025, or face reductions in operating hours, resources, and staff.

For public institutions as critical as public libraries, losing services is hard to even think about. We see children learning to read with their parents, students collaborating in a Safe Place, people of all ages at STEM, arts, culture, and business programs, and of course everyday citizens utilizing a wide range of free resources that the library provides.

On any given day your young child can read to a dog while your middle schooler learns to write computer code; maybe your high schooler wants to watch the latest Star Wars movie at the May the 4th party, while parents check out the latest bestselling books and movies, and grandparents get free tax aide then stay for a Music at the Library concert. And this is just at our local Edmonds Library!

Throughout both counties the Sno-Isle system is a source of empowerment to many diverse groups. No matter your background or the state of your bank account, every person has equal access to all the resources and learning opportunities of our public libraries.

I cannot be more proud that our local elected officials, including Mayor Dave Earling and City Council Members Diane Buckshnis, Thomas Mesaros, Mike Nelson and Dave Teitzel, all have endorsed a YES vote for Sno-Isle. They are in good company on a comprehensive list of mayors, city council members, state and federal representatives, community groups, and local citizens.

And as residents of our two-county system, you have equity in our libraries and should not be shy about visiting different branches, asking questions and making requests. If there is something you think people will use, please take that idea to library staff or our local Friends of the Edmonds Library group. We fund programs, equipment and upgrades that are directly related to our library and its customers, so don’t be shy.

Sno-Isle Libraries are our libraries; let’s ensure they are fully funded and then make use of those resources!

— By Luke Distelhorst, President
Friends of the Edmonds Library
Edmonds

21 COMMENTS

  1. Uh oh…’fully funded’ code words used…like McCleary and School Levies…

    Have you paid your most recent property tax bill? We need to start somewhere to push back against unbridled tax increases. Let’s start with the Library Levy!!! Vote NO!!!




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    • Code words sound fun! But alas, I’m not a Sno-Isle employee and those words are my own. What they mean is that the libraries will have enough money to be open the same hours, continue to have an excellent catalog and staff, and provide the free resources that you have grown accustomed too. Bonus: you already know what the tax rate would be! $0.47 / $1,000 assessed. So no surprise there.




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  2. It seems like there’s no amount of money that’s too much for supporters of the library to say NO to. Let’s show these elected officials that we are more prudent users of our assets than they are and vote NO.




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    • Hi Ron, I’d be happy to take you around the library sometime! I bet we could find some stuff that would save you money and be useful.

      I personally don’t think this is a “library supporter” issue. In Edmonds and throughout both counties we have people who depend on these resources: seniors who don’t have a computer or internet at home, children who cannot purchase books or movies, kids who learn to do CAD design and then print out their creation on a 3D printer (yes we had that program last fall!), businesses that need counseling, free database information, free printing, and book delivery to care facilities and homebound individuals.

      Again, I’d encourage you to visit Edmonds or another branch. I personally would love to take you around and show you how many different people use libraries for totally different reasons.

      Luke




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      • Luke, I’m aware that the library is a very useful facility. You’re missing the issue, that at some point the amount of money spent on it is too much. We have arrived at that point in time. This is the same issue as we had with fire service; that got fixed in 2009.




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  3. Hey- if the library facility were to move over to Hwy 99, that would sure mess up the USPO drop box situation! There are many who’ve just figured out where the drive thru mail drop is now located… and I’d sure hate to see all the uproar that will ensue if it moves again… just sayin’…




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    • There’s no talk about moving the library, only the possibility of eventually having a second library in the Hwy 99 area.




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  4. I’m retired and live in Edmonds. My “library” tax bill is around $200. It sounds like a large amount for that service. However I started by adding what I would pay if buying books (around $700/year); computer service/photo scanner (let’s say $100/yr); visiting authors and Ted talks ($200); city hall presentations of local projects (?). These are just a few and it is difficult to put accurate cost savings to all the ways that we can use the library. But when I look at a conservative estimate of what those out of pocket costs could be for me the Library Levy is a bargain. This is a place where I can truly see my tax dollars working for me.




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    • Probably the super market that people shopped at was a good value for them until Costco came along and provided a better alternative for many of their purchases. It’s a similar situation with the library; there is a better alternative – contracting for library services.




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  5. I see much of the anti-levy commentary ultimately advocating a secession from Sno-Isle to make Edmonds a contract city instead of part of a client area. This might work, but there’s an unaddressed wrinkle in drawing a money-saving analogy here to the agreement the City holds with FD #1.

    Immediately before the FD #1 agreement was written, the City was funding its own emergency services, so it had money in pocket for the contract. The Edmonds Library was in this position before citizens voted to join, but that was back before 2001. Today the City has no revenue stream waiting to be harnessed to fund a new contract on the order of $2,600,000 (earlier cited as Sno-Isle’s expenses for Edmonds in 2016).

    This consequence of the advocated change deserves some serious consideration beyond the expedient and simplistic answer of just cutting from other areas of the budget. Does the City then have its own library levy? Do patrons get charged admission or face fee-based services? How does it become a sustainable answer to the inequity perceived in the current levy?




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    • Certainly there are many details to be considered and worked out, just like with the fire contract. I’m not aware of anyone proposing that the library be funded by cutting other areas of the budget.




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  6. $9mJim some good points! Before we went joined FD1 we had two funding sources for our own fire services. Round numbers we had $4m from our EMS tax which is still in place today. And we have about $5m coming form the general fund. Rev to the GF comes from a bunch of sources including city approved levies, sales taxes and others. To total of $9m was from taxes we were already collecting. So joining FD1 and lowering our cost to $7m saved about $2m immediately. We pay somewhere under $10m today and if we were to use the formula that the Regional Fire Authority is proposing of $1.50/1000 our bill would be $13.5m. Much more than we currently pay using the contracting model.

    To raise $2.6m requires a $.29/1000 property tax. Currently we pay $.39 and the levy if passed will raise that rate to $.47 for a total rev of about $4.3m. or about $1.7m more than you cited as the cost.

    If the levy fails funding for the library WILL go up for 2019 and for all years to follow. I have asked for the 2019 budget estimates but they will not share them but they claim they will be $2m short. Looking at the budget numbers since 2007 does not suggest there will be a $2m short fall.

    So if the levy fails and we want to explore other ways to secure library services we could do one of 3 things. 1. Do our own library. 2. See if we could contract for library services from another library system. 3. Contract with Sno-Isle for a rate closer to the costs with a lower subsidy to the other 20+ libraries in the system. All would require some form of funding. This funding would require a vote of the people and would have to be sufficient to pay for the option we selected.

    Current funding would continue until new funding were in place. If the contract model replaced the current funding model across most of the 2 counties then our cost would likely go down just like they did for Fire. To create a sustainable funding model we could set up our levy to allow for escalation of revenue as costs go up.

    A no vote will not bring change the current revenue stream which will increase revenues in 2019 and the years beyond.

    Jim, your questions are good ones. These are the same type of questions we will be faced with when we have to decide how to pay for the 911 radio system, SERS, replacement which is scheduled to cost $75m. Edmonds share per household is $4m of that bill but if we use a county wide property tax increase to pay for it our cost would go up to $6m or a 50% premium.




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  7. I understand being upset with increased taxes and wasted tax money. To me the library is so valuable to our community and provides such tangible positive results, it is a tax worth paying. I have done the research and Sno-Isle has managed the money entrusted to them very well. This is not an example of government waste. Sno-Isle is governed by an independent board of 7 community members and has had 31 consecutive years of clean audits by the state of Washington.

    I visit several Sno-Isle libraries on a regular basis, and I see unique public spaces where everyone is welcome to meet, learn, access information, enjoy entertainment, get tax and homework help, learn English, spend time in a safe place, and I could go on and on.

    I hope that even those that are normally against tax increases will consider seeing this particular election in a different light. I plan to vote yes on April 24th, and I hope all library supporters and those who want to maintain a strong community will join me!




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  8. The library does provide valued services to a wide range of the population in a wide range of areas. The question is how to properly and fairly fund operations. Perhaps an option would be to fairly average each property tax recipient to pay exactly the same amount no matter where they live. The citizens could then vote on it and the library would then live within this budget.

    The Edmonds elected officials who publicly support the library levy need to now be strongly encouraged to help all the taxpayers with a fairer funding solution. Each spoke up now they are part of the solution to the issue. One is either part of the solution or part of the problem.

    It is simply not fair for folks that live in Edmonds to struggle to pay taxes simply because real estate values are higher.




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  9. A ‘NO’ vote will force a critical look at the real ‘cost’ of library service to the Edmonds citizen…and perhaps a realistic plan for library sustainability can emerge.

    The current Library levy funding strategy is no way to run a library system…there are few, if any, metrics for accountability and ‘return on the investment’ for the Edmonds/SnoIsle libraries…the Library Levy, as it stands, is a Sunk cost.

    Vote No.




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  10. Like most voters I just received the voter pack and ballot in the mail this weekend. Since I’ve been away on a Spring Break with my High School teaching wife, I’m reading the materials fresh for the first time today. I find the information totally inadequate in the voter’s pamphlet.

    As I prepare to cast my vote for or against a levy I have three questions in mind: 1. Do our financial partners across the system share the same level of commitment to Libraries as we do? 2. How accountable is the Library Board to their constituents regarding their needs and expectations? And 3. How well has our library system adjusted to new technologies, other points of access to information and generational distinctives for education?

    I plan to put some additional information together for these questions and I invite others to provide input here for myself and others to consider. I would like to endorse the levy as other councilmembers have done, but I’m looking for better information. Doing this will take time away from the two books I currently have checked out from the excellent Sno-isle digital library, but its worth it.




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    • Hi Council Member Tibbott,

      Glad you are looking for more information! You will find a great deal more on Sno-Isle’s website here: https://www.sno-isle.org/funding/levy

      As you may be aware, voting pamphlets have strict word count limits.

      I’m not Sno-Isle, but here are some of my personal thoughts regarding your questions:

      1. Everyone pays the same rate as mandated by state law, so financially speaking, each household shares their commitment from a tax perspective. If you’re asking about voter approval, I guess the election will show that. Sno-Isle has a capital facilities plan that has statistics and information on each branch if that’s what you’re looking for (https://www.sno-isle.org/facplan). What I think is really cool is that there is such a need in some areas that Sno-Isle has opened two new branches in the last two years (Mariner and Lakewood/Smokey Point). I drove up to the Lakewood/SP opening ceremony and it was packed with people of all ages. As Snohomish County continues to grow, populations have wanted more libraries in our communities. I think that’s a positive indicator. Also, not all branches are open on Sundays (like the Edmonds City Library did not work on Sundays prior to annexation). Luckily, we have Sunday service here which is a boon to our community.

      2. There are three south-county reps on the 7-person board (Edmonds, Lynnwood, unincorporated SE Snoho). https://www.sno-isle.org/board/trustees/ I would try reaching out to them! Susan, the Edmonds rep, was at the Levy Open House at the library last Monday. I think she may have been at the city council meeting on Tuesday as well; my vision may have been blurry, though 🙂 .

      3. All-in-one computers with professional software, laptops to check out, special Kano coding computers for kids, STEAM-focused programs (coding, 3D engineering, physics-related classes), streaming music/movies/tv through Hoopla Digital, ebooks/audiobooks through Overdrive and the Libby App on phone/tablet, Mango for learning foreign languages, and so on. I’m not sure what you mean by other points of access? I wish Sno-Isle had an App, I believe they had a survey about it last year so if the levy passes that would be a good question to ask! A lot of the educational materials can be accessed online: https://www.sno-isle.org/onlinelearning Check out that link because it has some crucial educational tools, all free for library card holders.

      I’m just scratching the surface with all this. I use the library a lot, and I think I only use 20% of what is actually available! Happy to meet at the library, find a staff member, and go through your other questions too. One goal I want our Friends group to focus on is better promotion/integration of library resources for the Edmonds School District (both students and teachers!). We will have Explore Summer as always starting June 1 to keep kids reading and educationally engaged over the summer, and I think there are many other potential areas of cooperation.

      The best way to ensure our libraries can acquire new technology, provide quality education and programming, and respond to all the points you raised is if they have the funding to do so (in my opinion).

      Thanks for the comment and question. I appreciate the engagement.
      Best wishes,
      Luke




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      • Thanks Luke… very helpful. Regarding means of accessing information, the Edmonds SD has provided a Chromebook for every High School student. They are more likely to access info online and from a far broader range of resources than available from the library. If the Library offers resources that they can’t readily access like subscription services, then our HS students need to know what they have through Sno-isle and how to access them using their laptops.

        Some resources like magazine subscriptions for teens seem outdated. Do we even offer those as hard copies anymore?

        I’d like to know if our local board members are willing to cut back on services no longer being utilized. Can you think of any cuts or reductions they’ve made in the past 5 years?




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        • Gotcha! Yes, Sno-Isle has a lot of digital resources, but there definitely is a balance as we have many in our community who still prefer physical and will not use digital resources (I believe that to be true throughout the system). It’s best to ask Richard S. or other library staff about exact usage numbers. I think physical magazines and newspapers remain popular, but they are also accessible online from anywhere if people choose: https://www.sno-isle.org/magazines-newspapers/

          There are even specific teen and children’s e-sites: https://www.sno-isle.org/digitalmedia

          Regarding budget cuts or reductions, again, best to ask Sno-Isle or Board of Trustee members. I think it’s usually more about “upgrading” than straight cuts. For instance if you’re removing an outdated resource or item, you’re usually replacing it with something newer or more advanced. One thing I remember from 2017 was moving along many physical reference books. Nowadays those quickly become outdated, they take up a lot of space and they just aren’t used as much as they used to be. Most of those items are captured digitally, so it’s not a straight reduction, but more of an upgrade. We ended up selling some of those reference books at our sale, thus generating revenue that goes back into programming and equipment for patrons.

          Again, I think if you go to the library they can probably provide more-detailed and up-to-date info than I can. I’m just a library hanger-on 🙂 .

          L




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  11. Remember Edmonds…you are disproportionately supporting All of the libraries in Snohomish and Island counties.

    Is that wise in today’s tax-and-spend climate of McCleary and Education Levies with sky-rocketing property evaluations? Taxes go Up when property evaluations go up…what happens when property evaluation come down?? Taxes stay up??

    Vote No!




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