Pierce County Library primes for levy vote in November

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The Pierce County Library System’s Board of Trustees is expected to take a formal step to ask voters to restore its levy. At the Board of Trustees meeting at Pierce County Library’sAdministrative Center and Library, 3005 112th St. E., Tacoma, on Wednesday, July 11, at 3:30 p.m. the Board is expected to pass a resolution that would put the restored levy on the Nov. 6, general election ballot.

The restored levy, also known as a levy lid lift, would maintain services including the hours of operation at 20 locations; staff to support growth and learning with thousands of classes and events; computers, Wi-Fi and technology offerings; as well as community connector services such as public meeting rooms and community events and forums.

Without the restored levy, the system would need to further eliminate and reduce services including the hours libraries are open; the number of books, movies and other materials; and close two to three of its 18 full-service libraries. Since 2009, the system has eliminated, reduced, streamlined or did not offer needed services and deferred maintenance totaling $20 million to manage its budget.

The restored levy is needed primarily because costs to operate and maintain library services and libraries are increasing at a faster and higher rate than revenues. By Washington State law, local governments, including Pierce County Library, are limited to no more than an increase of 1 percent in property taxes plus property taxes from new construction each year.

The only other time the library asked voters to restore its levy funding was in 2006. Voters approved that levy, which the system projected would meet service needs for up to six years. The library has stretched that funding for 12 years. Since then, the population in the lLibrary’s service area has grown by 16 percent, and at the same time the number of people with Pierce County Library cards grew by 63 percent.

At the June board meeting, a Community Advisory Committee that had analyzed the Library’s funding and input from the public, recommended that the board ask voters to restore the library’s funding to its full authorized amount of 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Without a levy lid lift, the library’s 2019 levy is projected to be 41.5 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

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