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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Library wants levy increase

Tax increase needed to maintain service level

SCLD Director Mike Wirt,  right, and Branch Services Manager Patrick Roewe wait for  the public at an  open house at the Argonne Branch Monday.  (Christopher Anderson)
SCLD Director Mike Wirt, right, and Branch Services Manager Patrick Roewe wait for the public at an open house at the Argonne Branch Monday. (Christopher Anderson)

People, it turns out, would rather use libraries than talk about them.

No one turned up at meetings Friday and Monday to discuss a proposal to restore the Spokane County Library District’s tax rate.

No one entered conference rooms at the Airway Heights and Argonne libraries to claim any of the neatly stacked brochures or one of the promotional pens invitingly laid out in rows.

District officials chatted among themselves and occasionally nibbled on the oatmeal-raisin and cowboy cookies intended for patrons.

Anyone who entered the room would have had the undivided attention of Director Michael Wirt, branch services manager Patrick Roewe, communications specialist Beth Gillespie and a district trustee – Mary Lloyd at Airway Heights; Dan Davis, at Argonne.

At one point, it appeared there was a nibble. But it turned out to be a child playing too near the door, oblivious of what lay beyond.

Next door in both libraries, it was business as usual. Steady streams of people browsed the stacks for books and magazines, used the Internet computers and read at tables.

At the Argonne branch Monday afternoon, users generally were unaware that they would be asked in the Aug. 17 primary election to restore the district’s property tax rate to its statutory maximum of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Library officials say the levy lid lift is needed to maintain the current level of service. The tax rate has fallen to 45 cents per thousand because of a 1 percent lid on budget increases.

The extra nickel of taxing authority would cost the owner of a $150,000 home $7.50 a year.

“We come here all the time,” said Connie Barber, a home-schooler with two children.

Barber was inclined to vote no on the lid lift.

“Nobody wants taxes increased,” she said.

Spokane Valley retiree Lynn Smith also said he probably would vote not to increase library taxes, “just because we don’t tend to use it that much.”

Smith said he had been in the library only three times in several years, and wouldn’t have been there Monday if his computer had been working.

Dave Johnson, who lives on nine acres just north of the Argonne library also was wary of anything that would increase his taxes.

If the county government tells him it is running out of money, Johnson has no sympathy. He said his tax bill has risen to $4,400 from $2,300 when he bought his property seven years ago.

But Johnson likes to be told where his money is going. If it’s for libraries, he has a “soft spot” for them.

“I like paying for libraries,” Johnson said. “If everything’s run efficiently and they still need a little more, I’m happy to give it to them. But something must have happened in seven years.”

Shaun Moore, a Spokane Valley resident looking for gardening magazines, thought $7.50 a year sounded like a bargain.

“I don’t see how anybody could argue with something like that,” Moore said. “My kids love coming here and getting books.”

He said his oldest daughter, Kayla, is learning how to draw with books from the library.

Spokane Valley resident Kristin Painter said she would vote for the lid lift. She comes weekly to the Argonne library with her 8-year-old daughter, Baylee, a voracious reader who was filling a bag with “chapter books” Monday.

Baylee thought a book titled “Dog Heaven” looked like the find of the week.

Peone Prairie resident Jerald Baugh, a retired iron foundry worker, was in the library with his wife, Pam, and their 9-year-old granddaughter, Katelyn Price.

Baugh said they come often, and he would vote for the lid lift because the library gives him “a lot of joy.”

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