With levy lift defeated, KRL ponders its next step

Voters already already struggling with a lingering recession were in no mood to raise their property taxes further to support library services, as they rejected Kitsap Regional Library’s levy lid lift proposal by a wide margin in Tuesday night's election.

Early results showed the measure losing 34,493 to 24,515 (or 59 percent to 41). Even with more votes remaining to be tabulated, it was clear the margins would hold.

“We appreciate all the effort that went into the levy campaign,” said KRL Director Jill Jean. “Of course we are disappointed that the proposal didn't pass. Passage of the levy would have secured the system’s future for many years to come.”

She said library administrators will analyze the vote results and report back to the KRL Board of Trustees at the board’s Nov. 16 meeting.

However, no decision on what step to take next should be expected immediately, she said.

Gail Mathison, president of the KRL Board of Trustees, echoed Jean's comments.

"We are, of course, very disappointed," she said. "The efforts of so many to explain the needs of KRL and merits of this proposal were beyond expectations and we thank them.  We still believe in our library system and we know there are many Kitsap County residents who also believe.

“The board," Mathison said, "will now look ahead, assess our current situation and where our next efforts will take us. Thanks so much to our supporters."

The KRL board will have a retreat in early December to plan for 2011. The earliest another levy proposal could have impact on the KRL budget would be in 2012, so options for rerunning the levy could be considered for any election during 2011.

In the meantime, the budget that has been prepared for 2011 calls for the system to maintain the status quo through the end of next year.

KRL officials anticipate no service cuts or cuts in hours for 2011, but the system just recently was hit with an unexpected $250,000 increase for the health care coverage it provides to employees.

That additional cost in 2011 exceeds the projected increase in the district’s property tax levy from 2010 to 2011.

Consequently, some cash reserves from the small budget surplus in 2010 will have to be used to cover those increased operating costs for 2011.

“We know this is not sustainable,” Jean said. “We will have to start planning to cut more in 2012. It’s very likely we will have to look at further reducing operating hours in the branches, or additional cuts to our budget for collections, or both, in 2012.

“For 2013, there will likely need to be more dramatic cuts,” Jean said. “At that point, we would have to consider whether the system can still afford to operate nine branches.”

None of the possible future scenarios without a levy increase have yet been discussed by the KRL Board.

Those discussions will begin Nov. 16 and continue to the Board retreat and to board meetings in the coming months.

Ultimately, the board will determine KRL priorities for the future, what cuts may have to be made and whether to propose a new levy plan to voters sometime in 2011 or 2012.

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