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Sno-Isle Libraries to seek 9 cent levy increase in November

Sno-Isle Libraries officials are hoping to use a combination of a levy increase and cutbacks to close a multi-million-dollar budget hole.

The Sno-Isle Board of Trustees unanimously approved a proposal Monday to ask voters to approve a 9 cent per $1,000 property tax increase.

If the proposal passes in the November election, the library system levy rate will stand at 40 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, up from the present 31 cents but below the maximum allowable of 50 cents.

Sno-Isle Libraries spokesperson Mary Kelly said Tuesday that the tax increase will provide enough money to maintain existing services in Island and Snohomish counties, along with some budget cuts that officials will have to approve in coming months. She said there will likely be reductions in the library materials budget and the purchase of a new computer system, estimated to cost $600,000, will be delayed.

Sno-Isle Libraries directors are working on resolving a $2.5 million budget shortfall. The system receives more than 90 percent of its revenue from property taxes. Because property tax increases are limited by law to 1 percent each year without a vote of the people, officials say the current 31 cent tax rate doesn't provide enough money to maintain services.

Kelly said a number of factors weighed into the decision to move forward with a levy election and budget cuts. A series of community meetings indicated people would support a levy if there were also budget cuts made. In addition, the current state of the economy deterred officials from asking the maximum increase to 50 cents as they did last time a levy increase went to voters.

The tax proposal now heads to the county commissioners of both Island and Skagit counties, who need to approve it so it can be placed on the November ballot. Library officials are also developing two budgets based on the outcome of the levy election.

The tax increase will need a 50 percent majority for approval.

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