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Libraries pass on November ballot

The Kitsap County Regional Library system has decided against asking the voters for additional funding this year in the wake of the defeat of a similar request in May.

“We thought about going on to the November ballot,” said KRL Director Jill Jean, “but we needed more time to talk to the public about the value of libraries and what people want to see in their libraries.”

“We really want to take the opportunity to interact with the public about what’s important to them,” said KRL Board of Trustees President Jackie Aitchison. “We want to do a thorough job of this and gather all the information before we made any decision. Getting on the November ballot did not allow us enough time to do this.”

Aitchison said she could not say when KRL would again face the voters. She said the system would first use a variety of public input options such as community meetings and public forums to gather information.

The decision to not attempt another ballot initiative was scheduled to be announced at a KRL Board of Trustees meeting Thursday night.

Since the defeat of the first measure, the Kitsap Library Advocates had funded a survey of 500 local residents selected at random, commissioning the Metropolitan Group in Portland, Ore., to conduct the survey.

The results of the poll were not yet available and will be used in the future, according to Aitchison.

The last KRL proposal — which would have increased the property tax allocation from 30 cents to 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — was soundly defeated. As a result, the allocation will fall to 28 cents in 2008 and the system will need to implement immediate cost-cutting measures.

Since losing the initiative, library officials have talked about changing their message and offering more specifics about how any increase would be used.

In order to face the voters again, the proposal would have to be submitted to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office by Aug. 14. This means the board would have needed to write a new proposal that had significant differences from the original measure by that time.

“I’m glad they’re willing to step back and take a look at the whole issue,” said Bainbridge Island resident Lois Andrus. “My view that going out now to get the money needed for the next couple of years was the wrong way to go. They need to find alternate ways to fund the libraries, and perhaps go to the Legislature. Libraries are quite different than what they used to be.”

Aitchison said anyone who wanted to provide input about any aspect of libraries should contact individual branches, write a letter to the trustees or wait to hear about the schedule of community meetings. She added that a special Web site may be established for the express purpose of community input.

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