Opinion

Port Orchard needs a seat at KRL’s table

Residents of Port Orchard and South Kitsap get a second chance to become involved in the Kitsap Regional Library levy planning, whether it’s for expansion or merely maintaining the current level of service.

After the KRL property tax lid lift ballot measure was rejected in May 2007, KRL proceeded to plan for its next steps after adjusting spending plans to bring expenditures into line with revenues.

Back in 2007, the ballot measure would have increased the annual levy-generated revenue in 2008 (including payments from the city of Port Orchard) by about $6.5 million to a total of $15.7 million.

The reasons stated in the ballot measure for this large increase — which would set annual revenue at the higher level in each subsequent year — were “to maintain existing services and meet increasing library service demands.”

While some people apparently imagined that construction of one or more new library buildings would result from such a big revenue increase, the stated purposes of the lid lift in 2007 included no new construction.

Although the economy had not yet hit its first “credit crunch” or entered a recession, more than 54 percent of voters rejected the 2007 ballot measure.

In this year’s general election, the KRL ballot measure was rejected by more than 56 percent of voters.

This recent ballot measure would have increased levy-generated revenue in 2011 by about $3.9 million to a total of about $13.8 million, assuming assessed property values declined by about 5 percent.

Although the proposed tax rate for the lid lift was the same (48 cents per $1000) in both ballot measures, the decline in assessed values significantly reduced the amount of the revenue increase.

The smaller increase would have funded more than maintaining existing services in the ensuing years.

It would have paid most of the cost of building new libraries in Kingston and Silverdale and some smaller part of the cost for a new building in Port Orchard.

A recap of KRL’s funding proposals for a new library in Port Orchard should illustrate why it is important for South Kitsap residents to get involved before the next KRL plan is put together.

This past spring, KRL proposed paying $750,000 as its contribution to a new branch library building in Port Orchard — perhaps 10 percent of the cost.

Since the KRL proposal for Kingston and Silverdale involved paying 90 percent or more of the cost, the different treatment of South Kitsap was glaringly obvious.

The next proposal was a contribution of $3 million toward the cost of building a new library in Port Orchard in 2014-15, if the city could be ready to start construction.

Trying to catch up in the spring and summer after KRL had settled on its general strategy the previous autumn didn’t result in similar treatment for South Kitsap.

Prior to the election, KRL’s representatives stated that more could be paid toward a Port Orchard library building — as much as $6 million — if the payment was made in 2019-20 after the other two libraries had been paid for.

KRL would still be paying a smaller share of the total cost, but not as small a share as the earlier $3 million would be.

If there is to be another plan including the construction of new facilities — despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm for such projects in the recent election — South Kitsap needs to be at the table from the outset.

Whether funds for construction come from a lid lift affecting the taxes paid by everyone in the county or from library capital facility areas affecting only taxpayers living near the proposed buildings, the KRL plan ought to provide similar treatment for each area.

It seems pretty clear from the past year’s experience that similar treatment won’t happen without active involvement from residents of South Kitsap and elected officials of Port Orchard.

Even if the KRL board of trustees decides to propose a lid lift to provide for necessary operating and capital expenditures without new construction, South Kitsap residents should not expect to be treated the same if they are not represented at the table.

We pay the same as everyone else, but if we aren’t at the table we are merely a source of revenue.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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