Letter to the editor: Lucky to have a great library system

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Editor:

Lucky us! My husband and I and all of our neighbors live in Edmonds. We have excellent schools, which I happily support with my property tax, even though I have never had a child in the district, even though my tax money supports schools in Brier and Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood…

And we have a lovely library just blocks away from our home.

We have so much to be proud of in our neck of the woods, not the least of which is our award-winning Sno-Isle Libraries. Our libraries provide a huge collection of books, e-books, movies, journals, magazines and, best of all, librarians who help us sort through the onslaught of information, who help us fill out forms, apply for jobs, apply to college, who bring stories to the babies and activities to the teens. Our libraries are meeting places and sponsors of important discussions on issues critical to our communities. Our libraries support civility and reason by providing forums for discussion, by vetting information and making solid information available to all of us.

Our libraries are funded almost entirely (98 percent) by revenue from a property tax, and on April 24, voters will decide whether to restore the levy level to 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed value or to force the libraries to make cuts to the hours, to the collections, to the activities we love.

I’m going to attend the open house at the Edmonds Library next Monday, April 2, at 6 p.m., where knowledgeable staff will help us understand the issues at hand. I want to know how it works, and we all deserve good information.

And then I’m voting YES. I urge you to join me.

Susan Kostick
Edmonds

16 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Lucky to have a great library system”

  1. We do have amazng libraries and we DO support them with our property taxes. But adding another nine cents per unit is not the way to go. The sky is not falling and the libraries will not undergo cutbacks. The system is actually collecting more revenue as our tax assessments increase when our property values increase, which is every year. We are already tapped out on education (increased state tax and increased local levy) and the crushing burden of Sound Transit 3. I love our library system and use it heavily, but I am already paying a very fair amount to support it. Unfortunately, I will be voting NO and ask that others seriously consider doing the same. The libraries are not in a crisis but our property taxes are.

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    1. I am glad to hear that you love the library and use it heavily. I hope you will come to one of the open houses where staff can explain the ins and outs of the levy revenue better than I can. But I do know that Sno-Isle hasn’t asked for a levy lid lift in 9 years and has done an amazing job of providing huge collections, new services and longer hours. It’s true that revenue increases some as assessed valuations increase, but library expenses also have increased–just like everybody’s–materials, salaries, fuel for the book mobiles and for the vans that bring you that book you wanted to Edmonds or Lynnwood from Darrington or Marysville. The immediate crisis that users will feel are likely to be shorter hours, reduced new purchases of materials, program cutbacks and slower delivery, just when library customers want more. Check out the online open house at sno-isle.org/levy and please vote “yes.”

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    2. Hi Carol,

      Sorry to hear that. Just so you are aware, Sno-Isle will have to make cutbacks if the levy rate renewal doesn’t pass: “Preliminary budget cuts would include reductions in staff positions, reduced purchases of library materials and reduced open hours at all community libraries.” Those are facts and I would encourage you to speak with staff at this Monday’s open house 6-7pm at the Edmonds Library.

      There is a handy chart on the levy rate here (https://www.sno-isle.org/funding/), and if Sno-Isle continues with their sound financial management of making their finances last as long as possible before going back to voters, the $0.47/$1,000 rate will not be a constant in the future. Sno-Isle states as much: if property values go up, the levy rate comes down.

      Hope that is helpful for you.

      Luke

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      1. Luke, the law of adding collecting only 1% more is a little difficult to clearly understand. If an entity collected $100 last year it could collect $101 this year. But in the case of most entities bound by the 1% deal they would also get more than the 1% if the tax base grew because of new development. That would create tax revenue about the 1% limit. The base for yr 2 is now larger because the new development has been added. For 2018 the increase taxes from new development was estimated to exceed $514,000. So in yr 2 the 1% is applied to the new base dollars collected from yr 1. New total revenues in any given year will exceed 1% if development has occurred.

        By changing the levy rate as it stands today from $.38/1000 to $.47/1000 the system can immediately collect 21% more taxes without worrying about the 1% rule. So the $42M collected in 2018 can now jump to over $50M. By voting for the $.09 increase we would really be setting into place the system’s ability to raise taxes as described without another vote of the people.

        Revenue from Timber sales also impacts total budget and for 2018 that revenue was up over 15% to over $600,000.

        There are other complicating factors at work as well. The is a “Implicit Price Deflator” factor that deals with inflation rates and statutory limits that are for to complicated to detail here.

        Another factor at work when it comes to home values is that if some homes are increasing in value faster then others those folks will pay more than the others because of the increased values.

        These issues are complicated to understand. They are not as simple as “it’s only x dollars a month. Using the property tax model creates unfairness issues. Edmonds tax base has increased by 50% since 2014 from $6.1B to $9.1B. For those on fixed incomes they did not enjoy a similar rate of growth in their disposable income.

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    3. Very well said, Carol. The problem with using these “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” is that the users are sheltered from having to defend their choices, and readers are unable to determine what their connection is to the issue.

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      1. Well put – I sometimes wonder why anyone would give a thumbs-down to a post, and doing so begs the question. But I di think the choice gives some feeling for how people react to a topic. Maybe if you’re going to give a thumbs-down, you owe the poster a response?

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        1. NB I gave you a thumbs up for one of following reasons.
          1. I like you
          2. What you said made sense and I agree with you.
          3. What you said made sense but I do not agree with you, so that would be down
          4. What you said adds to the original position and I like the original position.
          So in this case my thumbs up was a little bit of 1 and 2. You did not take a position for or against the original post so 3 and 4 would not come into play for your post this time.
          Some ups and downs are hard to understand.

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  2. Susan Kostick, I am in full agreement as well. I will also be voting YES for our amazing libraries. Supporting our library for all it does for our community is a cost-effective use of my tax dollars.

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  3. You are missing the point. Yes, Sno-Isle Libraries is an outstanding system that we are already funding at an acceptable level. Our current funding, along with good management, has given us a great system. But it is not in any crisis. Would it like more money? Of course. What bureaucracy does not? Do I think adding another nine cents to the existing levy rate is a good use of my money? No, I do not. Sno-Isle is managing well at the existing levy rate. Voting NO does not create a crisis for the system. Voting NO does not reduce the existing levy in any way. We all have to live within our means. On a modest property valued modestly at $350,000, the library system is asking for an increase of $315 per year. That’s a lot of money on top of our already heavy property taxes. Not worth it.

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    1. Some seem to forget that property values are also rising at least 10% each year which drives up the library tax by that amount.

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    2. You are correct. Thank you. I made an error with moving the decimal points on my calculator app. But it is still too much when there is no crisis in our well-run library system. I would very much like to be able to fund the wish lists, but Sound Transit put a stop to that with its huge property tax increase, vehicle excise tax, and new sales tax. These are essentially forever taxes. The levies that are funded through our property taxes increase every year as the assessor revalues properties. That is already an increase for the libraries. I enhance my tax contributions to the library by donating books and magazines for resale in the racks just inside the front door and to the right. I encourage Edmonds residents to increase their donations of reading materials to profit our local library and to purchase donated materials to further support the library.

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