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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Voters agree to tax for Spokane Public Library to maintain services

Voters appear to be renewing the levy that funds 18% of library operations and services for the Spokane Public Library system.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Renewal of a Spokane Public Library levy, constituting around 18% of the department’s entire yearly budget, was passing by a sizable margin Tuesday night.

The measure was succeeding with 55% of the vote after initial results. Additional ballots are expected to trickle in during coming days, but a majority are believed to have been included in Tuesday’s results.

“We promise to do good work with this confidence and with their tax dollars,” Andrew Chanse, executive director of the Spokane Public Library system, said Tuesday night. “It’s a tough time out there right now, and we know that – resources are scarce, so to get these sorts of results in that environment is really great.”

With such a significant portion of the department’s funding at stake, library officials have signaled that programs and hours of operation could be cut if the levy failed, although it had not been determined where cuts would fall. The levy will bring in approximately $2.5 million in 2025; the remainder of the library department’s revenue comes directly from the city’s general fund.

The library’s property tax will collect 7 cents for every $1,000 of property value in Spokane in its first year, meaning the owner of a $400,000 home could expect around $28 of their property tax payment in 2025 to go to the library. The levy would remain in place through 2027.

While voters were asked to renew an existing levy, taxes will jump if the renewal is approved.

The library will take in nearly $1.24 million directly through the levy this year, jumping to approximately $2.5 million in 2025 with the levy approved in Tuesday’s election.

When voters are asked to renew a tax rate of 7 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, that’s exactly what the tax rate will be in the first year of the levy, while the total amount collected, an estimated $2.5 million in 2025, could fluctuate. This is the same rate approved in 2013 and renewed in 2017, and what library officials point to when they say that the tax rate won’t be changed.

The 7 cents per $1,000 rate is only effective in the first year. Every year after that until a levy is renewed or lapses, the total amount collected for the levy can only increase a small amount, usually 1%, even if housing prices increase dramatically during that time, effectively decreasing the tax rate over the life of the levy. Spokane libraries expect to receive $2.52 million in 2026 and $2.55 million in 2027 .

The current seven-year library levy, which expires next year, has been in effect from 2017 through 2024. Over that time, the assessed value in Spokane city limits has more than doubled from $16.7 billion to $34.9 billion, but the amount collected by the library levy has only increased roughly 6% from $1.17 million to $1.24 million, with the rate effectively cut in half during that time.

If voters approve renewing the three-year levy this year until 2028, the rate will jump back up to 7 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, and the amount collected by the levy will more than double in its first year, but will only increase slightly every year afterward until the next renewal.