Library system to consider levy lid lift

The Kitsap Regional Library system is considering the possibility of sponsoring a levy lid lift in November 2010, asking voters to approve a property tax hike that would finance library operations for years to come.

“We’re hoping that a levy lift will give Kitsap County the library system it deserves,” said KRL Executive Director Jill Jean. “It will stabilize our libraries, and every branch in the system will benefit in some way.”

KRL last approached the voters for a levy lift in May 2007, but the measure was defeated by 9 percentage points.

At the time, the loss was blamed on increasing anti-tax sentiment, as well as a recent — and highly unpopular — tax increase from the Port of Bremerton.

On Dec. 15, the KRL board instructed staff to develop a proposal to prepare the levy for approval. It has until July 26, the last scheduled board meeting prior to the ballot deadline, to decide whether to proceed.

“The board has authorized the library administration to investigate the possibilities of another levy,” said KRL Strategic Planning Manager Jeff Brody. “If the economy has not improved when we need to make the final decision, we will not take it to the voters. The board may decide that it is not the right time to do this.”

Jean said the library administration “has an idea” of how much will be requested, but declines to disclose that amount at this time.

She predicted it will be a smaller amount than those for the last levy, which would have increased property taxes about $18 per $100,000 of property value.

If passed, the levy would include the restoration of operating hours, increased purchasing of library materials, technology enhancements and capital improvements.

All of these factors were mentioned by patrons in a survey taken over the summer.

Brody said increasing the broadband abilities in libraries was a priority, since “the connectivity available in libraries is relatively slow right now.”

He added the levy amount would add up to a “significant contribution” to the construction costs for the new library building proposed for downtown Port Orchard.

The library tax represents about three percent of a typical property tax bill in Kitsap County.

According to a press release, KRL operates nine branches across the county, some in partnership with other agencies. It owns the branch library buildings at Sylvan Way and Silverdale.

Other branches are owned by Kitsap County, the cities of Bremerton, Port Orchard and Poulsbo, by the S'Klallam Tribe, and by two nonprofits — the

Bainbridge Island Public Library and the Manchester Friends of the library.

Jean said KRL “disassembled and reassembled” its budget after the 2007 defeat, and “will give voters a much better idea of what this means and how much it will cost them” for the next levy action.

“The last campaign was not very well managed,” Brody said. “We are going to do a lot better job explaining the levy this time.”

Voters last approved a library lift in 1979.

If approved, the 2010 action will cover library expenditures for the foreseeable future, according to Jean.

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