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Port Orchard residents could see higher taxes if Kitsap Library annex goes through

The Port Orchard City Council is expected to vote next week on an ordinance that would authorize an election by which the city could be annexed into the Kitsap Regional Library system.

But first, KRL officials had to answer some pointed questions about the agency’s planned levy request, whether Port Orchard is being adequately served under its current arrangement with the library and what would change if the city were annexed.

“It seems to me Port Orchard is getting much less than other markets,” Mayor Lary Coppola said at Tuesday night’s work-study session. “Is there any reason why that should be the case?”

Councilman John Clauson, too, wondered why Port Orchard owned its library building but KRL owned the new facility in Silverdale.

“The residents of Port Orchard currently pay into the library system and have access to all the wonderful services you provide,” he said. “But they also pay property taxes to a city that owns its library building while the residents of Silverdale pay the same amount to the library system and don’t also have to provide a building, too.

“If the city annexes into the library system,” Clauson asked, “at some point in the future can we expect it to buy us a new building?”

“We don’t have the money to do that,” answered Susan Whitford, director of technology and facilities for the Kitsap Regional Library. “Currently, we have different arrangements in all the communities we serve, and some of them are more favorable than others.”

As for the annexation itself, it’s clear Port Orchard residents could expect to pay higher property taxes for their library services if they agree to annex into the library system.

On the other hand, they would for the first time have a direct vote in the library system’s operations.

As things stand now, Port Orchard contracts with KRL for library services — meaning residents pay their property taxes to the city, which then pays a yearly fee to the library system.

Last year, that fee amounted $373,000.

By annexing into the district, property owners would pay a fee directly to KRL rather than having the money routed through the city.

The city, in turn, could opt to lower its property taxes in order to compensate for the increase, but it isn’t required to do so.

Nor has it been settled whether that would happen.

“If we’re going to move forward with this, the citizens deserve to know where we stand,” said Councilman Rob Putaansuu. “If we’re going to put this on the ballot, we need to state where we’re at.”

The KRL board of directors is scheduled to vote on Port Orchard’s ordinance at 5:30 p.m. on April 27.

Assuming the board approves the request, the Port Orchard Council would vote on whether to authorize the election at its regular meeting later that same evening.

If the motion is approved, it would then go to the Kitsap County commissioners, who would have until May 25 to approve the ballot measure in order for it to be run during the Aug. 17 primary.

Concurrently, Kitsap Regional Library is planning to run an unrelated ballot measure requesting a levy lid lift.

As presently configured, the levy would increase the library system’s share of property tax assessments from 34 cents per $1,000 to 46.5 cents.

The increase would equate to $31.25 per year on a $250,000 property and would generate $33 million over the next 10 years.

If the levy passes, Port Orchard could receive up to $750,000 to help build and equip a new downtown library branch, including $500,000 within the first five years.

That could change, however, since KRL is still in the process of crafting its levy request.

“There are still a lot of moving parts,” said KRL spokesman Jeff Brody. “We’re still working through how to create the best levy package we can for Kitsap County.”

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