Eight more cents per $1,000 of assessed property value is what the Pierce County Library System’s Board of Trustees will be seeking from the September 19 primary ballot. At a July 12 meeting, the board passed a resolution to put a levy lid lift on the ballot.
Currently, taxpayers pay 40 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property for library services. By state law, library districts may collect up to 50 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property. The Board of Trustees is proposing an 8 cent increase for every $1,000 in assessed property.
Voters in unincorporated Pierce County and 14 cities and towns that have annexed to the Library System (Bonney Lake, Buckley, DuPont, Eatonville, Edgewood, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Milton, Orting, South Prairie, Steilacoom, Sumner, University Place, Wilkeson) will be asked to improve library services.
“Citizens deserve more from Pierce County Library,” said J.J. McCament, chair of the Library’s Board of Trustees. “Thousands of people have told us about the services they value, want and need. Those services include hours convenient for commuters, a wider selection of books and materials, support for their children’s reading and homework, and better overall services and up-to-date technology for customers.”
“The levy lid lift will help meet the needs of growing and changing communities, while balancing a reasonable tax level for property owners. We are concerned about the burden of property taxes on homeowners,” said McCament. “We are not proposing to increase the tax level to the full amount allowed by law.”
On average, homeowners now pay $90 a year for library services. Restoring library funding to 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property would cost the average home assessed at $244,000 an increase of $27 in 2007.
The Board concluded the need for a levy lid lift for the following reasons:
- The Library System has not been able to keep up with needs created by a 49 percent population growth in the Library System’s service area since 1996. 509,000 people now live in the Library’s service area.
- Revenues are barely keeping up with the cost to run libraries. Costs are expected to increase at about 5-6 percent a year and revenues are expected to increase by 3-4 percent a year. Since 2002, the Library cut more than $1 million in operations and services to stay within available revenues.
- The Library lags behind nearly all other like-size library systems in Western Washington for important library services. For example, the Library is open fewer hours than nearly all other library systems and customers wait an average of 19 weeks for a popular book, which is well over twice as long than at other libraries.
The levy lid lift would bring customers the following major services:
- Expand open hours by 18 percent by opening all libraries on Mondays during the day and evening, nine libraries on Sundays, and six libraries on Thursday evenings.
- Offer a wider variety of books, CDs and other materials and cut the time people wait for books by 30 percent.
- Improve services for kids and teenagers to help them read, do homework and be successful in school.
- Upgrade technology and services for customers and offer more computers with Internet access.