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Library falling short of needed super-majority

ARLINGTON The final total of votes has yet to be counted, but the current percentages indicate that this year's Arlington Library bond election could be defeated by a wider margin than in the November 2006 election.

Residents of the city of Arlington and most of the Arlington School District voted May 20 on two measures: Whether to form an independent taxing authority and district, called a Library Capital Facility Area, and whether to approve an $8.8 million bond to fund a new library for the Arlington community.

As of May 22, the Snohomish County Auditor reported that Proposition 1, to form the Library Capital Facility Area, has received a total of 6,106 votes, with 3,615 votes to approve it, or 59.20 percent of the vote. Proposition 2, to approve the bond for a new library, has received a total of 6,078 votes, with 3,424 votes to approve it, or 56.33 percent of the vote, up from 56.22 percent on May 21.

Proposition 1 only requires a simple majority of 50 percent, plus one vote, to pass, but Proposition 2 requires a super-majority of 60 percent to pass. If the final tally of votes does not give Proposition 2 60 percent of the vote, the library bond can run for election a second time without running the Library Capital Facility Area for election.

"By state law, once a bond measure has failed twice, a capital facility area has to be reformed," said Mary Kelly, community relations director for the Sno-Isle Libraries. "It can be a bit confusing, but both the capital facility area and the bond have to be passed for Arlington to get a new library."

Both Kelly and Kathy Bullene, branch manager for the Arlington Library, emphasized that the fate of the library bond remains uncertain.

"What I discovered in 2006 is that it's not over until it's over," Kelly said. "The results will be certified May 30, and last time, it came down to the very end."

Kelly was unwilling to make any predictions about the final tally of the vote, but she was looking on the brighter side of what she'd seen.

"The bond measure might not be high enough yet to pass, but it's high enough to show the strong support and positive feelings of the community for the Arlington Library," Kelly said.

Bullene was quick to praise the Arlington Library Bond Committee for its hard work. She cited a larger library as a critical need for a growing community like Arlington.

"Hopefully we'll get a bigger one soon," Bullene said. "I learned the last time that every vote counts, and not all of the votes have been counted yet. It will be close, but we hope to finish a little bit over, rather than a little bit under."

Regardless of what the final tally of the vote turns out to be, Bullene promised to provide Arlington Library patrons with "the best services we can with the resources we have."

George Boulton and Karen Hobson, of the Arlington Library Bond Committee, expressed their shared disappointment over the results so far.

"A good library adds value to a community," Boulton said. "It maintains property values and other amenities. It creates a great community. If nothing else, this has shown that a majority of people do want a new library."

Boulton criticized the 60 percent super-majority requirement on resources such as libraries and fire districts, even as he acknowledged its role in preventing larger landowners from "being taxed out of their own properties." At the same time, he acknowledged the impact of rising fuel prices on voters' decisions, since "when we started this campaign in January, we had no idea gas was going to go up to $4 a gallon."

In spite of his frustration, Boulton praised the Snohomish County Auditor's Office for working to ensure all ballots are counted.

"They've done an admirable job," Boulton said. "If a ballot is wrinkled or unclear, they'll call that person. They've gone overboard in their efforts, so you can't blame them."

"Voters have indicated that a new library is not a priority at this time," Hobson said. "We need to move on. From here, it's up to Sno-Isle to come up with creative ways of continuing to provide us with great library services."

Hobson noted that the Arlington Library Board and the Friends of the Arlington Library are available to work with Sno-Isle Libraries and offer their input. She suggested that the Camano Island Library could be used as a model for how to utilize a smaller library space.

In the November 2006, 8,891 ballots were cast on whether to approve a bond for a new Arlington Library, with 5,307 votes in favor of doing so, or 59.69 percent of the vote. The measure was 28 votes short of its required 60 percent super-majority.

The next update to the vote tally will be released May 28, and the final tally will be certified by the Snohomish County Auditor May 30.

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