City could look to revisit deal with library district

The city of Port Orchard’s decision last week to annex into the Kitsap Regional Library system could mean more than just a voice on ballot measures like KRL’s upcoming levy request.

It could also signal an opportunity for the city to revise the current arrangement under which Port Orchard owns its own library building while KRL provides a structure for other Kitsap communities.

“If the levy passes,” Councilman John Clauson noted during an Aug. 20 work-study session, “(KRL) is going to be in a position to put a fair amount of money into our building. Instead of just making little changes, it might be time to look at this from a whole new perspective.”

“You’re correct,” City Attorney Greg Jacoby confirmed. “Council can certainly revisit the whole issue of how that building is managed.”

Port Orchard residents voted during this month’s primary election to formally join the library district. In addition to empowering city residents to vote on library measures such as the levy lid lift request on the November general election ballot, the move means KRL will start collecting a portion of Port Orchard’s property taxes directly, whereas before the city paid KRL an annual fee for its services.

The tax-collection change, however, won’t take effect until next year.

“The deadline has already passed to change the way it’s collected this year,” said KRL spokesman Jeff Brody. “KRL will have to rework its memorandum of agreement with the city to handle the transition year of 2011 while the city will still be collecting the library tax.”

The change could also allow the city to raise property taxes slightly, using its banked capacity to exceed the prescribed 1 percent per year, but indications are the council will resist that temptation.

“The council members have stated a preference for making this a revenue-neutral move,” Mayor Lary Coppola said on Monday, “and I would assume they won’t vote to approve any increase. But until the matter comes up for a vote, I suppose it’s theoretically possible they could change their minds.”

Regarding the question of how passage of the annexation vote could change how Port Orchard does business with the library district going forward, Coppola said the city’s Public Property Committee would take the matter up and report back next month.

The measure KRL is sponsoring in the November election involves a 13.5-cent increase in the levy lid, to 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, in 2011.

The hike would raise an estimated $3.65 million annually above the current levy base of about $9.3 million.

A typical home assessed at $262,000 is currently paying $83.94 in taxes to KRL, about 2.9 percent of the total tax bill of $2,835.

Among other expenditures, the library district would use the additional revenues to help construct new libraries for both Kingston and Silverdale, where KRL would actually own the buildings.

In Port Orchard, the library system would “partner” with the city to build a new downtown library.

In its original proposal, KRL offered “up to $3 million” towards the Port Orchard project — provided the city could come up with a matching amount.

Following a meeting with Coppola two weeks ago, however, the district revised its offer to include the full $3 million with no requirement for matching funds and projected the money would be available in 2013 or 2014, by which time the city envisions building a new downtown parking garage in conjunction with a new library.

The sweetened proposal spurred Coppola, who had previously been a harsh critic of the ballot measure, to recommend the council offer its endorsement.

In the meantime, the city could well suggest some changes of its own, starting with the memorandum of agreement specifying that Port Orchard must purchase its own library building while KRL provides a structure elsewhere.

“We see these other communities getting help with their buildings where Port Orchard doesn’t said Councilman Jerry Childs. “Nobody seems to be getting the same thing, and it seems to me this is an opportunity to look at this and ask why.”

“I’m not saying I’m bent on making changes,” Clauson said. “But in my mind the whole obligation changes once we annex into the library district.

“We may want to continue to provide the building and everything we have up to this point,” he said. “But we’re no longer required to, and I think we should explore other possibilities.”

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