The Spokane County Library District will soon ask voters to approve an almost $2 million property tax increase to pay for maintenance, security and increasing the library’s digital resources.
The levy, approved by the library’s board of trustees Tuesday, would cost Spokane County taxpayers 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an additional $14 in property taxes.
Spokane County taxpayers already pay about 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, and the district is allowed to ask for up to 50 cents per $1,000 under state law.
John Craig, chairman of the Spokane County Library District board of trustees, said it is the largest library district in northeastern Washington. He said the district doesn’t receive any money from the state or the county, and is mostly funded through property taxes. He said the district tries to go as long as it can between levies, but if costs rise too quickly trustees have to go back to voters.
Patrick Roewe, executive director of the Spokane County Library District, said if the library doesn’t see an increase in revenue, it may have to cut back service, or eventually, close down one of its branches.
About 93% of the district’s revenue comes from property taxes and the rest is from grants and donations. He said grants usually are earmarked for special projects or programs and can’t be used for maintenance and day-to-day operations.
“We’re not at a financial crisis right now,” he said. “We’re going to get out ahead of it so we can maintain those services, uninterrupted.”
He said the levy would pay to replace aging heating and air conditioners, security cameras in parking lots and lobbies, community programs and more digital services.
“It’s nothing really flashy,” he said.
Over the past 10 years, demand for digital services has gone up 2,700%, and digital products and subscriptions are often more expensive than books, Roewe said. He said the library is hoping to offer more digital resources for county residents so users can use library services without having to enter brick-and-mortar locations.
He said the district also is hoping to expand mobile services to underserved regions of Spokane County and expand programs that send staff to adult care facilities or day care centers.
The Spokane County Library District serves every city in Spokane County except Spokane and Liberty Lake. The district’s largest and most used library is in Spokane Valley. Last year, about 1.3 million people visited county libraries and checked out about 2.5 million items. The libraries’ total budget is about $11 million and about 115,000 people have library cards.
The levy, which will be on the Aug. 6 primary ballot, needs a simple majority to pass. The district’s last levy was approved by 55% of voters in 2010.
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