August 31, 2006 in Voices

Stevens County puts two library bond issues on ballot

Joe Everson Correspondent
 

Members of the Stevens County Rural Library District board of directors have done their homework. Now they’re preparing for their final exam.

The board has proposed a $2.5 million bond issue to construct a 6,000-square foot library in Suncrest on State Highway 291. The issue will be on the general election ballot Nov. 7.

The building would replace the Lakeside Community Library, which opened in 1999 and operates on three floors in leased space.

Four years ago, the library faced an effort by anti-tax groups to dissolve the district. Although the initiative was defeated by a 65-35 margin, supporters learned from the experience.

There actually will be two library issues on the ballot. The first, to form a parcel county capital facilities district, designates which part of Stevens County will use the new library and specifies that residents of other areas will bear no tax burden. That proposal requires a simple majority to pass.

The second ballot item will be the actual building bond proposal and requires a super-majority of 60 percent. Although the tax rate is as yet to be determined, it most likely will cost between 56 and 66 cents per $1,000 of valuation. On a $200,000 home, that’s about $112 to $122 a year over the life of the 20-year bond.

The two-part proposal was crafted to minimize opposition from voters in northern Stevens County who supported the dissolution efforts in 2002 and who are least likely to use a new library in the south.

“It’s important to develop the facilities district, which designates the boundaries of who will pay for the bond,” said Jeff Jurgensen, current chairman of the library board. “It won’t be the whole county which will have to pay for it.

“We haven’t really seen much activity in support of or against the bond, so we’re trying hard in the next couple months to get the word out to people about the issue and let them make up their minds.”

The needs of the community have outgrown the current facility, he said, where for example many children’s books are housed on shelves so high that kids can’t reach them.

If the proposals pass, the board hopes to break ground in spring 2007 and open late next fall. If the effort to create the taxing district passes but the bond issue fails, the board would have one year to try again.

“This community is growing very quickly,” said trustee Walt Kloefkorn. “Suncrest is proposed as a designated urban growth area in the Stevens County Comprehensive Plan.”

He noted that neither the state nor the federal government provides funding for public library buildings. In 1996, the state Legislature established capital facilities areas as the mechanism for community funding, and since then more than a dozen areas have voted to build libraries.


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