King County Library System levy lid lift is in passing mode—so far | Special Election
February 16, 2010 · Updated 10:08 AM
King County voters — along with a small number of eligible Snohomish County voters — appear to have approved a levy lid lift benefitting the King County Library System (KCLS).
Votes are still being counted from the Feb. 9 special election and numbers won’t be official until Feb. 24, but the lid lift was passing 125,102 to 114,685 as of the deadline for this issue.
The numbers represent the total number of combined votes from both counties. KCLS Director Bill Ptacek said the only Snohomish County voters eligible to cast ballots for the library issue live in the section of Bothell situated in that county.
But, judging from the results available so far, Ptacek also noted those voters are giving the library a good deal of support.
Unofficial numbers from Snohomish County show the lid lift gained the approval of almost 60 percent of those casting ballots there. In King County, the approval rating was sitting at 52 percent.
While the lid lift was intended to benefit the entire system, Ptacek noted it will help the coming new Kenmore KCLS branch be of as much service to residents as possible.
“It’s going to ensure the new Kenmore Library will be as available to the public as we wanted it to be,” he said.
Ptacek added he is just pleased voters apparently have recognized the system as a valuable asset.
As for the Kenmore project, it was not directly dependent on passage of the levy and Ptacek said he still expects construction to get under way next month. The first step is demolition of the existing building at the site of the new branch on Northeast 181st Street, the current location of the Kenmore branch of the US Post Office.
The post office is set to move across the street into the old Kenmore city hall. Ptacek said contractors for the post office are in the city hall building and renovations are under way.
Regarding the lid lift, prior to the all-mail election that ended Feb. 9, a library spokesperson said KCLS officials would need to make “across the board cuts” of 10 to 15 percent in 2011 if the lid lift failed.
Community relations and marketing director for the library, Julie Brand said the cuts would have limited dollars spent on new books, technology and building maintenance. She added library hours of operation and staffing would have faced the budget axe in coming years.
What voters unofficially approved is an increase in the property tax levy rate benefitting KCLS, moving that rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Brand said for a home valued at $400,000, that amounts to about $200 annually, up from about $168 annually.
According to Brand, the need for the levy sprung almost directly from voter passage of Initiative 747 in 2001. I-747 established a 1-percent limit on annual levy growth. Brand said library officials quickly recognized that because of that limitation, they would need to go back to voters occasionally.
“It’s become part of what we have to do,” she said.
Prior to the election, library officials stated that limited by I-747, revenue growth has not kept pace with inflation and rising operating costs driven up partly by a 43-percent increase in library usage.
Voters last approved a lid lift for the library system in 2002. The most recent lid lift did attract some opposition, led by Kirkland resident Will Knedlik. Knedlik particularly objected to a mailer sent out by KCLS that he said misrepresented the lid lift as temporary.
“When you tell voters they’re voting for an increase for one year and it’s in fact multiple years, you have a bait-and-switch tactic,” he said. “I’m not acquainted with any agency in government that has told this type of bold-faced lie.”
Knedlik could not be reached for comment following the election.