Library board discusses levy defeat

The Kitsap Regional Libraries Board of Directors met Thursday, May 24, to interpret the recent defeat of its proposed levy lid lift and to discuss if and when it will approach the voters with a new proposal.

The defeat was characterized as a reaction to increased taxation rather than a dismissal of library services, as well as failure of KRL to focus their message and define exactly what services would and would not be available if it fails to find another funding source.

The levy, which was the only countywide item on the May 15 ballot, drew 42.61 of the total vote. The most current numbers showed 54.45% (30,084)

opposed to 45.55% (25,166) in favor. The Kitsap County Auditor’s office certified election results Wednesday.

KRL Director Jill Jean said that while the percentage of the defeat was 9 percent, the actual votes--4,818--were not substantial. There was the notion that if KRL was to try again they would only need to gain another 2,409 votes. On the other hand, it was clear to the board that if they are to go back to the voters it must be with a proposal that is more focused and asks for less than that contained in the defeated measure.

“A lot of the local curmudgeons didn’t really look at the amount of the increase but saw the proposal as a fifty percent increase in what you are getting today,” said Ray Pardo, a citizen supporter who was attending the meeting.

“It’s important that we don’t take these results personally,” Jean said. “This is not a reflection of the jobs we do and the service to the community.

“We knew the anti-tax sentiment was there,” she said. “Although the fact that more voters didn’t turn out is rather extraordinary.”

Helping with the vote analysis was Leigh Pate, a Seattle public affairs analyst hired to plan strategy and interpret voting trends. At the meeting, Pate presented a color-coded map that showed where support for the measure drew a majority of voters. Pate pointed out that the displayed results could be misleading, as high support in a sparsely populated area is inconclusive.

Nevertheless, Bainbridge Island was the area showing the strongest support, while the greatest opposition percentage-wise roughly corresponded with the Port of Bremerton boundaries. The election was held two weeks after property tax statements that reflected a significant Port-mandated increase were due.

KRL has paid Pate about $3,000, distributed on an hourly basis, for her work prior to the election as well as her analysis of vote totals. KRL Spokesperson Audrey Newell said that Pate’s input was necessary to understand the messages behind the vote.

“People took the time to vote,” Newell said. “There is no more important poll than the actual vote, and we need to understand the motivation behind this decision.”

Jean said that Newell, who is resigning at the end of June because her husband was transferred, will be replaced. “It is important that we get our message out,” she said.

Conducting future polls is one strategy that KRL may use, but this also must be carefully executed.

“If you do a poll it should have a forward focus,” Pate said. “You can spend a lot of time trying to find out why people voted the way they did but it makes more sense to try to find out what you should do next.”

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