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City Council votes to endorse library district annexation

The Port Orchard City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday night to endorse Proposition 1, which would annex the city into the Kitsap Regional Library District.

Notably, even those who voted against the resolution supported the ballot measure itself. The issue was whether it was appropriate for the council express a preference.

“People have minds of their own,” said Councilman Jim Colebank. “I know I do, and I recoil when I’m being pushed in a certain direction.”

“I disagree,” Councilman John Clauson countered. “We’re not telling people how to vote. We’re taking a position as a city.”

Like other communities in Kitsap County, KRL currently provides library services for Port Orchard. Unlike those other communities, Port Orchard is not a voting member of the district.

Rather, Port Orchard contracts with the agency, meaning local property taxes are paid into the city’s general fund, and Port Orchard, in turn, writes a check to KRL.

Elsewhere, the library district simply imposes its own property tax directly on residents of the district.

The important distinction is that, by being a member, Port Orchard would have a say in future library levies rather than having to pay for levies decided by voting members.

“I personally support our citizens having a voice in these questions,” said Rob Putaansuu. “If we don’t join the library district, our citizens don’t have a say. That’s what it’s all about, for me.”

Putaansuu said he didn’t think the council should feel pressured to pass a resolution of support for the ballot measure, but “I think we should have the dialogue.”

Councilman Fred Chang agreed.

“I don’t see where voting for this is us telling anyone what to do,” he said. “It’s just me telling people how I intend to vote.”

Chang added that, in a typical primary election, voter turnout is relatively low.

“If our voting on this resolution can raise awareness about the proposition,” he said, “that’s a good thing.”

Councilman Jerry Childs said he was torn on the question.

“I support the ballot measure, but I don’t like the idea of us telling people how to vote,” he said. “Whenever I see other city councils voting on things that don’t directly affect them, I wonder why they don’t just mind their own business.”

“I would hope we would not adopt this resolution,” agreed Councilwoman Carolyn Powers, although she, too, professed support for the ballot measure itself.

“The people know we voted to put the measure on the ballot in the first place,” she said. “Beyond that, I don’t like telling people what they should do.”

In return for the right to vote in library district elections, property owners could see their total property tax bill increase if Proposition 1 passes.

By law, the city could continue to collect property taxes at the previous rate, even though it would no longer be paying a portion of that money to the library district.

Or it could reduce its collections to offset what property owners would be charged by the library district.

At this point, however, the council hasn’t decided which direction to take.

The council agreed unanimously in April to authorize a ballot measure for the Aug. 17 primary election, and for Colebank, that was enough.

“My job is to get it on the ballot,” he said, “not to help people make up their minds what to do with it.”

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