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Sno-Isle levy narrowly passing

Levy funding is needed to maintain current level of services at local libraries

 

Christopher Andersson

Library associate Emily Zimmer helps set up part of the Arlington Library for a "Minecraft Duel" event for local teenagers on April 27.

Although the margin is close, Sno-Isle Libraries officials are "cautiously optimistic" that their April 24 proposed library levy measure has passed.

As of April 26, 50.46 percent of voters in Snohomish and Island counties voted to approve the measure.

In Snohomish County 47,225 voters approved the measure while 51,166 voted against. That margin was made up in Island County which voted in a landslide for the levy, with 13,281 approving and 8,226 against.

In the combined total, the margin was just 1,114 votes.

Sno-Isle Libraries operate most local libraries, including the Marysville Library, Arlington Library and the recently opened Lakewood/Smokey Point Library.

The initial April 24 results were slightly against the measure, with the margin only being a couple hundred votes.

"Of course, the election night results were not in the direction we were hoping for," said Jim Hills, public information manager with Sno-Isle Libraries.

"In the following days the results inched closer," he said.

After a several more days of results, Sno-Isle Libraries officials are more confident in the measure passing.

"We don't really think there is a chance it can go the other way now," said Hills, although you can never know that for sure, he added.

"Given the number of ballots that election officials say remain to be counted, we are cautiously optimistic about the outcome," said Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory, Sno-Isle Libraries executive director.

If it passes, the levy will raise local property taxes by $0.09 per $1,000 of assessed property value, for a total of $0.37 per $1,000 of assessed property value collected by the library district.

"We have about 98 percent of our funds coming from the property taxes we collect," said Hills.

The levy was meant to be a maintenance levy, so that Sno-Isle Libraries would be able to continue with its current levels of service.

"This sets us on a path for the next five years, possibly more, to provide the library services that we are providing right now," said Hills.

State law is designed to allow library levy collections to increase each year, but the increase is purposefully slower than inflation, so library districts have to return to the voters eventually for funding increases.

"It is appropriate to come back to voters to ask 'will you continue to support us,'" said Hills.

Before this year, the last time the Sno-Isle Libraries passed a levy was in 2009.

Balancing tax concerns and library services was the biggest feedback people gave about the levy, said Hills.

"We didn't hear that people didn't like the libraries. Often what we heard was 'we do like the library, we use its services, but we're concerned about the property taxes,'" he said.

Woolf-Ivory said the library district will continue to use the "same thoughtful approach to our stewardship of public funds."

"We know that voting for property taxes is tough. This is a very close election and we're mindful of the feelings and concerns of those who didn't vote, 'Yes,'" she said.

State law allows library districts to collect up to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, said Woolf-Ivory.

"We looked at the budget and projections and decided we just didn't need that much, so, we didn't ask for it," she said.

Library officials are happy with the support they received.

"We are thankful for the support of the voters," said Hills.

 

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