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Kitsap Regional Library mulls levy increase for November ballot

At a study session last week, the Kitsap Regional Library’s Board of Trustees supported moving forward with plans to ask for a levy increase this fall.

Jeff Brody, KRL’s community relations director, said the board is considering asking for either a 10-cent or 12.5-cent levy increase to restore hours, increase staff and build new branches.

“We are seeing increasing demand for our services and we are not seeing the problems with our buildings diminishing,” said KRL Board President Teresa McDermott.

Brody said the library system’s nearly $10 million annual budget is almost entirely funded by local property taxes. Under state law, KRL could collect 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, but the annual limit to the library’s levy increase has brought KRL’s tax rate down to 32 cents.

A measure to increase the levy by 18 cents in 2007 failed, and since then, the system has reduced hours of operation and cut back on the amount of books and materials it purchases for its nine branches, along with other reductions.

If a measure to raise the levy by 12.5 cents were to pass, the owner of a $250,000 home in the KRL district would pay an additional $31.25 a year in property taxes, and the system would receive an additional $3.6 million a year in revenue.

Bob Goldstein, KRL’s chief financial officer, outlined for the board how that money would be spent over a 10-year period.

About $17.5 million over 10 years would be directed to operations:

• Restoring hours of operations, including Saturday mornings

• Increasing spending on materials

• Restoring live online homework help for students.

• Increasing staff and covering expanded operations at Silverdale and Kingston as the two new, expanded libraries open

• Expanding technology spending, including money for computers and software, the catalog system and the KRL web site

About $18.5 million would be spent on capital projects:

• Building a new library branch in Silverdale, to open in 2013

• Building a new library branch in Kingston, to open in 2015

• Earmarking funds to help the city of Port Orchard build a new library facility

• Creating a pool of money that will help the other owners of KRL branch buildings to perform capital improvements, pay for energy efficiencies or expand.

KRL owns the Sylvan Way and Silverdale branch library buildings. The other seven are owned by Kitsap County, the cities of Port Orchard, Bremerton and Poulsbo, the S’Klallam Tribe; and non-profit organizations on Bainbridge Island and in Manchester. KRL has asked each of the building owners to identify specific building needs that could be addressed with money from the levy.

Brody said KRL’s board would like to wait until July and evaluate the county economic situation before making a final decision on the levy.

He said if the economy worsens, the board likely will decide against the levy increase, but if the economy stays the same or improves, it will likely go forward.

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