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Library lid lift defeated

Kitsap County voters decidedly defeated a property tax increase that would have guaranteed operation of the Kitsap Regional Libraries' operation and growth for the next five years in a special election on

Tuesday.

"This was a tough one," said KRL Director Jill Jean after the vote. "We had a lot of good support and we ran a clean, ethical campaign. I am tremendously disappointed."

With 50,645 votes reported shortly after 8 p.m., 27,291 (55.21 percent) opposed the measure while 22,684 (44.79 percent) voted in its favor.

About 50 people gathered in the Bremerton Library Tuesday evening, making optimistic speeches and congratulating each other for what they expected to be a victorious campaign. Jean called the library "the most democratic of all institutions" and that "we are on the cusp of a great future for KRL."

Shortly after 8 p.m. KRL Public Relations Manager Audrey Newell announced that the measure was defeated. As the air seemed to disappear from the room several people audibly gasped and someone shouted "you lie!" Newell had to repeat the news several times before attendees believed it was true.

"I'm in shock," Jean said. "This doesn't seem right."

"I completely understand how worried everyone is about property taxes," said KRL Trustee Althea Paulson. "This was a vote against more taxes, and not a vote against the library."

Jean said there is no strategy in place to deal with the defeat. She said the KRL Board would meet to discuss different options at its regular meeting May 24.

KRL last requested a levy lift in 1979 — the only such request in its 55-year history. This year's request comes two months after voters turned down both a sales tax increase to support Kitsap Transit's foot ferry and a South Kitsap school bond.

Additionally, the Port of Bremerton was roundly criticized for imposing a property tax hike without adequate public input.

Before the election Jean admitted that anti-tax sentiment could hurt the levy effort, but feels that community support for the library runs deep enough to assure the needed votes.

The gathering ended on a cautiously optimistic note when sign coordinator John Hurley told the attendees to "collect all the signs and hope they are in good enough condition that we can use them again."

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