Sno-Isle Libraries to place funding measure before voters in April 2018

Sno-Isle Libraries will ask voters to maintain funding with a ballot measure in April 2018, according to a library system announcement sent Tuesday.

“Going to the voters is not a decision we take lightly,” Board of Trustees President Marti Anamosa said before a unanimous vote at the Dec. 11 regular meeting. “Libraries are vital to our communities. Addressing the levy rate now enables the library to continue providing the resources that are so important to our communities and customers.”

The resolution passed by the trustees calls for asking the voters to consider restoring 9 cents to the library district’s regular operating levy. The 2018 levy rate is expected to be 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. If voters approve the ballot measure scheduled for April 24, 2018, the levy rate would go to 47 cents in 2019.

Sno-Isle Libraries receives 98 percent of its funding from a property-tax levy across most of Snohomish and all of Island counties.

“The predictability of property-tax revenue helps in budgeting, but unfortunately costs often rise more rapidly than revenue,” Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said. The library district’s strategy, she said, is to do what most people do; budget carefully and put some away in savings.

“We last went to the voters in 2009,” Woolf-Ivory said. “Those were tough times and we promised that if our communities said ‘yes,’ we wouldn’t come back for at least five years and we’ve stretched that five years to nine. We made good on our promise by using what was necessary to maintain services and reserved the rest until needed.”

Woolf-Ivory said the need to draw from reserves began three years ago and was used again to balance the 2018 budget. “By the 2019 budget, there won’t be enough in regular funding and the levy stabilization reserve to maintain current services.”

Board President Anamosa said the combination of the library district’s history of “careful, thoughtful and practical” budgeting with recent community survey results made the decision to go to voters a reasonable choice.

“The results from phone, email and online surveys, as well as three open-house events, indicate to me that the community wants an opportunity to vote,” Anamosa said.

Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation President Terry Lippincott thanked the trustees for bringing the levy question to the voters.

“The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation partners with Sno-Isle Libraries to bring strong programming to community libraries,” Lippincott said. “We’re excited to be part of the community support that includes corporate partners, friends-of-the-library organizations and a huge group of dedicated library volunteers.”

Voter approval of a library operations levy would mean library services would continue at current levels. If voters do not approve the ballot measure in April, the next step would be budget cuts for 2019 and service reductions.

“We project that the 2019 budget would need to be cut by $2 million,” said Woolf-Ivory, adding that additional reductions would be needed in 2020 and subsequent years.

“If cuts are necessary, the only way you get to $2 million is examining reductions in personnel and materials costs,” Woolf-Ivory said. Such budget reductions would:

  • Fewer open hours, fewer library services and fewer librarians would be hired as current staff members depart.
  • Fewer new titles, a smaller collection and longer customer wait time for print and digital books, movies and music.

Without additional revenue, budget reductions in 2019 would be followed by additional cuts in 2020 and beyond, reducing the library district’s ability to meet requests and expectations of communities and customers each year, the announcement said.

Sno-Isle Libraries operates 22 community libraries, bookmobile, outreach and online services available to more than 743,000 people across Snohomish and Island counties. More than 476,000 library cardholders use a variety of services annually. Children and families attended 7,280 library programs, drawing 221,000 attendees in 2016.

20 Replies to “Sno-Isle Libraries to place funding measure before voters in April 2018”

  1. I am still waiting for a response to the following email:
    “From: Ron Wambolt
    To: Sno-Isle Libraries
    Sent: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 3:40 PM
    Subject: Re: Opinion, please: Help shape Edmonds’ future

    Why are you talking about restoring funding; when was it cut?
    Property values have been greatly increasing; isn’t your funding going up similarly since you’re getting 47 cents per $1,000 of those higher values?

    Thanks,
    Ron Wambolt
    Edmonds

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  2. Ron is totally correct. This link https://www.sno-isle.org/funding will show some budget information for several years and the library has always collected more revenue year over year. Talking with a former budget director for the city confirmed what looked to be correct that the Edmonds Tax Payer pays more than their fair share of the library expenses. Our tax dollars are spent in other parts of the library system. Edmonds also provided the library with services that are not reimbursed for the building. Other cities collect closer to or the full amount of the building costs.

    Another oddity of the Library Tax is Woodway does not pay the tax for library services yet their kids can use the Edmonds Library. The citizens of Woodway have nearly the same library privileges as Edmonds citizens but do not pay the tax.

    So when we look at the totally Edmonds pays for more than it costs and our tax dollars support other cities and the little town next door.

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    1. `Darrol, thank you for your very relevant and accurate comments. The library tax paid by the average Edmonds homeowner is 41% more than that paid by the average Snohomish county homeowner. That’s because the value of the average Edmonds residence is $474,800 and for the entire county it is only $335,800. We all pay the same amount of tax per $1,000 of assessed home value.

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      1. Thanks Ron for the Avg home data. Using property taxes to pay for services for the whole county will always put Edmonds at a disadvantage. The SERS radio system replacement may go the same way if we pay via the property tax route. The total cost of that system will be $75m and if we pay via the property tax method we will pay about $6m. If we pay via a per household type method then our share will be $4m. That $2m would pay for needed street overlay program.

        The other issue with how we fund the library is the building. In some cities ALL of the cost of the building are paid for by SnoIsle but in the case of Edmonds we pay for a great deal of the building costs. Just another form of Edmonds subsiding others.

        While we cannot solve each and every subsidizing issue we can at least look at what the subsidies are and try to pay only our fair share. Woodway does this by not paying any library taxes at all.

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  3. Our tax dollars subsidize other communities by a wide margin. When you do the math that means the 20,000 Edmonds households are paying about $1,300,000 more than if we paid the average. That would be sufficient to pay for all the catchup work needed for street overlays and further expand our sidewalk network. What also is an Edmonds budget issue is that we do not charge the library system for the cost of the building while other communities do. Yet another subsidy. We are talking about real dollars here and we should help find a better way to fund the library system so we are paying closer to our fair share and such a plan should also be done in a way to include Woodway who currently pay Zero while Edmonds pays around $4,000,000.

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    1. This is to clarify some of the statements above, not to dispute them at all, because I totally get the point on the imbalance of cost for services provided.

      When the decision was made to give up the City operation of the Library and associate instead with Sno-Isle, a contract was signed between the entities spelling out who was responsible for what. The City routinely pays for building repair and maintenance needs, but it is more complicated. All costs associated with custodial services and utilities are reimbursed to the City by Sno-Isle. Additionally, a fund was established by Sno-Isle at the inception of the contract to cover internal Library needs, e.g., the new carpeting that was installed about 7 years ago, and new furniture and stacks. Structural, electrical, and mechanical needs are funded by the City, both parts and labor. Unlike other branch libraries, this building remains owned by Edmonds, so there is some rationale for these costs to be absorbed by the ‘landlord’.

      Cost parity across the Library service area should be a concern, and spreading costs equitably appears a worthy goal to me. Teasing out the method to achieve this from the existing relationship is going to be the hard stuff.

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  4. Thanks Jim, Yes the original agreement shaped the current plan but agreements can be updated. We did it with fire, Woodway police, School district play fields and others. While landlords may be willing to be a part of the ongoing maintenance landlords get rent that is typically near fair market value. Going to a cost plus type model would allow Edmonds to “pay” for its direct service and also make a contribution to the general overheads of the system. They are ways that could make the balance better and it may be time to begin to work on these issues. Maybe we could do it to even include Woodway!

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  5. I am pleased all of you are looking into these tax issues and I agree with the good points and questions you ask. This needs to happen.

    One thing- are you sure about Woodway. It is my understanding that they cannot check out books. Thank you.

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  6. Woodway does not pay a tax. That is for sure. They can walk in the door and read books and news papers, and mags on site. They cannot check out books. Not sure about computers and other resources but they cannot do things that require a library card. It would be nice to build a funding model that would attract the folks from Woodway to help with the costs. Woodway has mastered the art of subcontracting services.

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    1. Edmonds Residents voted to join the Library system instead of having the city pay to belong as had been done in the past. The City was then able to use the money previously allotted to the library, for other purposes-a big revenue increase for the City at the time. Thus we voted ourselves a tax increase that we would never have approved if we had been asked for a levy increase by the City. Woodway voted not to join and to do without library services-a conscious decision. Those Woodway residents who do use the library are simply freeloaders. That some of them would do so was known at the time.

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  7. Thank you. I don’t believe they have computer access as well.

    Perhaps Woodway would be interested in full access and paying a share for the services. May be a matter of talking to them about it.

    Perhaps some Edmonds council members could weigh in and help.

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    1. If a funding model that is based more on households rather then property values were to be adopted then maybe they might be willing to join.

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  8. 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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  9. I’m all for taxpayers funding public services – schools, roads, libraries, military & on & on & on & on. Why, oh why though, do we need at least 4 elections in one year? We just had a school vote, in April a library one, in August the primary & November, the general. To the best on my knowledge, elections are not free or even cheap to run. How come the first two could not either be combined or better yet, rolled into the primary? This is not a rhetorical or facetious question. I would like an answer from somebody in the know, please.

    Maybe we can have a vote on how many times we can vote? (THAT was a facetious question.)

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    1. The school district runs their elections in February because they’ve determined that is the most favorable time for them to get the needed number of “yes” votes. They cannot run it later than April because they would then have inadequate time to determine the number of teacher contracts they can enter into for the coming school year. I don’t know why the library district could not wait until the primary in August.

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  10. Here’s a thought out of the box. If one reads an Edmonds tax statement there are 8 competing entities for your tax dollars all piling on with no idea of total dollars or bottom line impact. Most likely they don’t even know who they all are. Not sure how many actually read tax statements or care anymore. I know some do in this forum.

    Perhaps before any vote a representative from all 8 should be required to appear before city councils and forums to explain and see what exactly the total impact together is on the tax payers. Individually piling on with their own separate levies and tax raises they only see their own needs and agenda not the impact on the many.

    Just thinking out loud.

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  11. Mike, that is a very good point. We have the stated line items on our tax statement and some of the aggregate numbers are made up of other taxes as well. For example there is no line item for our EMS tax. It goes to the City but not shown on the tax statement. Schools has two taxes but they are combined. We also pay a “Pub Hosp #2” tax of $.08/1000 but it does not go to a hospital. So my combined rate for all these taxes is 10.73/1000. It would be nice to understand the use of some of these taxes and how they fit into the values of our community. Mike’s idea would be a good one and we could all learn from the exercise.

    When Edmonds did the Strategic Action Plan a few years ago more then 2500 people participated and the idea that had the most votes of all was to begin a process to gain public input to budget understanding and budget making. It was called “Budgeting by Priorities”. The cities that have done BBP have all learned a great deal of what the citizens want from their government. Although it was the number one vote we have made no progress toward the implementation of BBP.

    The basics of any reviewing process is citizen understand and input. Edmonds could do a better job of both and Mike’s suggestion would be a good start.

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    1. and this is how Edmonds PD prioritizes their budgetary requests. Based upon their real life experience, Chief Compaan’s team prioritizes funding requests based upon the best needs of the community.

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      1. Ed is correct. The police do a great job of understanding what the community wants and then trying to make it happen.

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