City votes to annex into library district

The measure to annex the city of Port Orchard into the Kitsap Regional Library system scored a lopsided win in Tuesday night’s primary election.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 71 percent of those expressing a preference believed the city should join the library district compared to 28 who said no.

Unlike other Kitsap County communities, Port Orchard owns its own library building and contracts with KRL for services.

Rather than being taxed directly to support the library system, Port Orchard residents paid their property taxes to the city, which in turn paid an annual fee to KRL out of its general fund.

Not being a formal member of the district, city residents were prohibited from voting in library levy elections like the one scheduled for November.

Tuesday night’s result means Port Orchard residents will be given a say in library decisions.

On the down side, the vote could mean a property tax increase for city residents, although the city council has pledged not to let that happen.

“Officially, the library district was neutral on the question of Port Orchard’s annexation,” said KRL spokesman Jeff Brody. “But from a larger perspective, we’re happy that the last community in Kitsap County that wasn’t already a member of the district has been brought on board.”

Brody said having Port Orchard as a full-fledged, voting member of the system would also help alleviate the perception of inequity.

“There is a perceived difference in how Port Orchard was treated compared to other communities in Kitsap County,” he said. “I can understand why some people would attribute that to the fact that Port Orchard hasn’t been able to vote in our elections. Hopefully, that problem has been eliminated.”

Brody noted that the tax-collection aspect of Port Orchard’s inclusion in the district wouldn’t take effect for another year.

“The deadline has already passed for the library district to tax city residents directly this year,” he said, “so we’ll be on an interim basis until 2011.”

That won’t keep Port Orchard residents from voting in November for or against the library’s levy request.

“As for the political implications, I have no idea whether Port Orchard’s inclusion makes passing the levy more difficult or not,” Brody said. “There are more voters now, which means we have to work that much harder to get our message out.

“If we’re able to convince people the library service is a good value to them, we’ll be successful,” he said. “If not, we won’t be.”

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