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Library levy would help sooner

Sno-Isle Library System administrators thought they would have to wait until 2005 before seeing any library cuts restored by a November 2003 levy, but they are happy to report they were wrong.

The Snohomish County Assessor’s office pointed out to the library last week that a state law allows an existing levy to be restored on the Jan. 1 immediately following passage by voters.

“This is excellent news for us,” Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory, library director, said.

Sno-Isle plans to put a levy vote on the November ballot in order to restore funding that has dipped to 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Initiative 747 requires all tax increases over 1 percent to be approved by voters. Sno-Isle is seeking to increase its levy to 50 cents per $1,000, which is where it normally is.

This is the library’s second levy attempt. The Snohomish — Island counties levy proposal was voted down in February, although it passed in Island County.

Whether the November levy passed or not, Sno-Isle thought it was looking at cutting $800,000 from 2004 operations. These cuts included closing all branches for one week and reducing library materials purchased. The Clinton branch was set to be closed on Saturdays. If the levy passes those cuts will not be necessary.

Restoration of the levy would result in an additional $2.4 million in annual revenue. That revenue would help to reverse two years of declining revenue and increasing cuts. The 2002 and 2003 budgets were reduced by $2.5 million. Cuts included reducing the equipment budget from $1 million to $257,000, deferring facility upgrades and reducing cash reserve accounts.

Even the worst case scenario of the levy not passing is not as bad as the library thought.

If the levy doesn’t pass in November, the library will have another chance in 2004, which would enable the cuts to be restored in January 2005. The levy could be back on the ballot as early as March, but the library has not held discussion on that just yet, according to Mary Kelly, Sno-Isle community relations manager.

Sno-Isle’s dire predictions of budget cuts was not just a case of the library playing Chicken Little. The sky may yet fall.

“The work we did to prepare for 2004 was necessary,” Woolf-Ivory said. “If the levy restoration does not pass in November, we will need to reduce services in 2004 to ensure a balanced budget.”

Sno-Isle hopes to communicate the need for the levy to all library district voters through a series of public meetings. Two meetings will be held on Whidbey Island Oct. 7, one at the Freeland library at 4 p.m., and another in Oak Harbor at Skagit Valley College at 7 p.m.

You can reach Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.

com or call 675-6611

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