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Tue., Oct. 20, 2009

Editorial: Library ballot measure checks out

The Kootenai-Shoshone Library District has been through half a dozen consolidations, but for Post Falls voters, the ballot proposal facing them on the Nov. 3 ballot will be a new experience.

Naturally, voters want some answers before handing their library over to the district. What happens to the competent librarians and other professionals that patrons have come to appreciate? Why should Post Falls give away a relatively new facility that hasn’t even been paid off yet?

Those are reasonable questions, and they have reasonable answers.

With the exception of director Joe Reiss – who’s retiring and whose position will go away – the staff will remain. Nothing changes except the name of the institution.

The building itself was constructed with a voter-approved 1999 bond issue that will be paid off in 2014. If the upcoming measure passes, the district will take over maintenance and repair responsibility next year, and the city will deed the building over once the bonds are retired. If the district ever decides to vacate the building, the city gets it back.

The hardest question to answer about the consolidation measure is, simply, why not?

As a city entity, the library’s budget has been flat for three years, meaning service levels have declined with inflation. As it is, a third of the city library’s patrons actually reside in the district’s territory, largely because of irregular city boundaries in the growing municipality.

Consolidation between the Post Falls Library and the district would solidify an important population in the district that would then serve all of Kootenai County except Coeur d’Alene, along with that part of Shoshone County that used to be the Pinehurst-Kingston Library District.

As for the all-important concern about cost, that’s one of the brightest spots of all. Post Falls officials calculate they now spend about $780,000 a year to run the library, augmented by $52,000 a year from the Kootenai-Shoshone District because of those non-city patrons.

The city of Post Falls estimates that the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $35.50 less in annual property taxes if the measure passes.

If the Post Falls Library becomes the seventh to consolidate with the Kootenai-Shoshone Library District, will residents be sorry? The Pinehurst Kingston district was consolidated 12 years ago. About a decade later voters there faced their first library bond request and approved it with 87 percent of the vote.

That ought to reassure skeptics.

The consolidation measure is a sensible step in the community’s best interest.

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

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