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No lid lift for libraries in ’08

Citing the current economic situation, the Kitsap Regional Library Board of Trustees announced on Thursday night at a regularly scheduled meeting that the library will not seek a levy lid-lift tax initiative on the November ballot.

President Teresa McDermott said the board’s decision was a difficult one and involved much discussion and consideration since the library has been cutting its hours and services system-wide during the last year.

She said the board is contemplating the possibility of a November 2009 ballot initiative.

“We are extremely sensitive to the current economic climate,” McDermott said. “We, too, are making difficult economic choices.”

KRL had a levy lid-lift measure defeated on May 15, 2007.

The lid-lift measure, if passed, would have given the library an additional $6.1 million (increasing the budget to $15.4 million) in 2008 by allowing an 18-cent increase for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The current county-wide rate is about 30 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The board considered another levy try last summer, but decided against it.

The library has cut more than $2 million from its 2008 budget and KRL Director Jill Jean said more cuts will occur next year.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Jean said in a statement released Friday. “We have already reduced our books and materials budget by $250,00, and have reduced open hours system-wide by 44 hours per week. We have implemented a modified hiring freeze, which has led to a reduction in staff via attrition and retirements, and some vacated positions have not been filled.”

Jean said the library’s shrinking budget has forced the board and administrators to consider even more belt tightening.

“We want the public to know that we are responsible stewards of their tax dollars,” Jean said. “It deeply saddens us that we have had to reduce our hours, our collection and the number of events we sponsor. Further cuts may be necessary in all those areas — and more.”

Althea Paulson, Bainbridge Island’s representative on the board, said there will be a shortfall of about $650,000 in 2009.

She praised the work of Jean and new Finance Director Bob Goldstein, saying that they have managed to improve efficiency and make cuts without a lot of reduction in service.

“I’ve been heartened by the fact our staff has really buckled down to find areas to make cuts and streamline our service,” Paulson said Friday. “Nobody likes library hours being cut, but that’s the reality of our situation.”

Paulson said it appears that the economy will continue to be difficult for entities such as public libraries, since they are nearly 100 percent funded by property taxes.

“We’re not even keeping up with the cost of living these days,” she said. “But that’s just a reality we’re going to have to live with.”

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