Opinion

The city annexed into KRL — now what?

Now that Port Orchard is part of the Kitsap County Rural Library District, the city council needs to give South Kitsap voters reason to believe that approving a library district lid lift will likely result in a new library in the city.

Their audience includes city residents and those who live in unincorporated areas of South Kitsap, since a new library in Port Orchard would serve us all — and the money would come in one way or another from us all.

When deliberating on their resolution in support of annexing the city into the library district, some council members were opposed to anything that resembled telling voters how to vote on the proposition.

In the month of September — well before ballots are mailed out in October for the general election — the council ought to tell us how they expect things to play out if voters approve a library district lid lift.

It’s not about telling us how to vote. Instead, it’s about telling us the likely impact on the city’s budget and the city’s plans for a new library.

Voters in the vicinity of Silverdale and Kingston can be reasonably sure that approving a lid lift will result in building new libraries for them.

In Silverdale, a 17,500 square foot library is planned at a total cost of roughly $9 million; and more than 90 percent of the cost would be paid by the added levy revenue plus proceeds from selling the old library.

The Kitsap Regional Library administration expects local fundraising in Silverdale to come up with the difference between the total cost and the funding to be provided by the library district.

In Kingston, a 7,500 square foot library is planned at a cost of about $4.2 million; and more than 90 percent would be paid by the levy revenue.

Local fundraising for the Kingston library would fill in the gap much like what is expected in Silverdale.

Even if fundraising efforts fall short in Silverdale and Kingston, there is no risk that libraries won’t be built after a lid lift is approved. KRL isn’t going to sit on the additional revenue forever while waiting for donations to fill the gap.

The situation in Port Orchard is different, since the planned 13,500 square foot library would cost about $6.7 million if the cost per square foot is similar to the others — and less than half would be paid by the library district levy.

If residents of Port Orchard and South Kitsap cannot raise the difference between the $3 million pledged by KRL and the total cost, it is hard to imagine how a new library could be built.

So, how does the city council expect to raise the difference?

A library district lid lift would cause the city’s property tax revenue to decline from its current amount at least for the next few years.

Declining property values have probably eliminated the gap between the city’s maximum allowable tax rate for 2011 taxes and the rate the city would need to collect its current amount plus the usual 1 percent increase.

With no end in sight to declining assessed values, city residents who vote for the library district lid lift would be deciding to send more revenue to the library district and less to the city for the next few years.

Faced with the need to come up with the difference between the total cost to build a new library in Port Orchard and a decline in city property tax revenue, how would the council expect to deal with the situation?

Port Orchard residents need to know the likely impact on city services before they vote to approve or reject the library district lid lift.

Voters in unincorporated South Kitsap would be paying more to the library district if a lid lift is approved, so they need to know if the city can follow through and build a new library to serve them.

The lid lift would increase taxes for the typical homeowner in South Kitsap by less than $3.00 per month, but voters need to know more than the impact on their tax bills.

They also need to know if the city can probably succeed in raising the money to pay more than half the cost of building a new library in Port Orchard.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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