Property taxes are a tough subject, but worth talking about.
Almost all of the money needed to operate the five libraries on Whidbey Island — and the other 18 community libraries in the Sno-Isle Libraries district — comes from an operations levy, which is on your annual property tax statement. Only 2 percent of funding comes from non-property tax sources. No operating money comes from the state and nothing from the federal government.
State law dictates that levy funding for a public organization like Sno-Isle Libraries can increase only 1 percent a year, with a few exceptions.
However, no law places a 1 percent cap on annual library costs. Whether it’s the electric bill or gas for the bookmobile, the library pays increased costs like most of us. While we work to provide great library services within budget over the years, funding just can’t keep up with expenses outside of our control.
Back in 2009, voters approved the library’s current operating levy. I promised at the time that we would not come back to the ballot for at least five years. We made the funding last nine years. How? By making practical decisions on spending.
You can see your money at work online and at your community library. You can talk to a librarian, check out a book, use the wi-fi, download an audiobook, attend an event or take an online class. No matter where you live, the library is available.
The Sno-Isle Libraries operations levy on the April 24 ballot asks voters to restore 9 cents to the levy rate. Why 9 cents? Because that’s all that is needed. If approved, the total rate would be 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The law allows a rate of 50 cents, but our successful track record shows we just don’t need to.
If voters approve the levy rate restoration in April, it would maintain library services. If voters reject the levy restoration, the budget will be reduced by $2 million in 2019 and continue to decrease in subsequent years.
I hope you will take the time to familiarize yourself with how your libraries are funded. More information is available at sno-isle.org/levy If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at JWoolf-Ivory@sno-isle.org
Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory is executive director for Sno-Isle Libraries.