Opinion

City, library system in complex mating dance

Annexing the city of Port Orchard into the Kitsap County Rural Library District would cost city taxpayers more, but they might decide it’s worth it.

Why pay more in taxes? As an old saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.

The rural library district is considering a property tax lid lift to increase revenues available for things such as building a new library in Silverdale.

Since Port Orchard is not a part of the rural library district, its residents cannot vote in library district lid lift elections.

They don’t pay the district’s tax, so they can’t vote on propositions that affect the tax.

The city of Port Orchard is a part of the Kitsap Regional Library system, not the rural library district.

KRL is an organization consisting of the rural library district and participating cities.

Being a part of KRL, the city pays some of its revenue to support KRL.

This city revenue helps pay the operating costs of the KRL branch library in Port Orchard.

Under the existing agreement with the rural library district, the city’s payment is figured by multiplying the library district’s tax rate by the city’s total assessed property value.

This year, the amount paid by the city is about $373,000.

If a lid lift were approved by library district voters, the amount paid by the city under the existing agreement would go up, but the taxes paid to the city by its residents would not.

As things now stand, city taxpayers wouldn’t pay more, but they might notice that city services are affected by the additional payment of city revenue to support the library system.

If a significant part of the additional library district revenue from a lid lift were used to build a new library in Silverdale, Port Orchard residents would be in a strange situation.

Their city services would be affected by the city’s requirement to pay more to the library system at the same time the city is looking for ways to build a new library in Port Orchard — not Silverdale.

You might wonder why the city would consider constructing a new library building in Port Orchard. Why not let the library district do it?

In the past, the cities that are part of KRL have typically provided the buildings, and the rural library district has provided the services and materials for library operations.

As is typical in this arrangement, Port Orchard owns the building in which the KRL branch library operates.

If there is to be a new building, someone has to pay — typically the taxpayer living within the library branch’s natural service area.

Nothing prevents paying for a new library with revenue from everyone within the county — except, of course, the possibility that people outside the branch’s service area may not approve the additional tax.

Unless Port Orchard is annexed into the rural library district, its voters won’t have a say in deciding whether to pay an additional tax — and won’t have any direct influence in deciding where the additional tax revenue will be spent.

Annexation’s effect on individual taxpayers would be an increase in their tax bills, since they would continue to pay the city tax and begin paying the rural library district tax.

This year, the city will pay about $373,000 to the library system. But if annexation had already taken place, the city would have been paying none of that revenue to the library.

City residents would have been paying this $373,000 directly to the library district, if annexation had already occurred.

The total property tax collected from them by the city would have been reduced by about $31,000 by annexation’s effect on the city’s maximum allowable tax rate.

So the city would have enjoyed a net gain of about $342,000 in revenue available for other city spending.

Without annexation, the city would simply transfer more of its revenue to the library system after a library district lid lift — no gain for the city and a possibly noticeable effect on city services for its residents.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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