Sno-Isle Libraries trim budget, look to maintain services with levy

Melissa Bergemeier can catch up with what
Melissa Bergemeier can catch up with what's happening on the Internet at the Arlington Library Oct. 12.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

A levy for the Sno-Isle Libraries is on the ballot Nov. 3, but even if it passes, the 21 community libraries in the Snohomish and Island counties will still be facing some belt-tightening.

Sno-Isle Libraries Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory explained that additional budget cuts for 2010 were suggested by their libraries' community members. Regardless of the Nov. 3 election's outcome, their libraries will be reducing senior administrator salaries by 3 percent, freezing staff salaries and eliminating some staff positions. If the levy is not approved, their libraries' spending will be cut by $2.5 million, open hours will be reduced at all their libraries, and fewer books and computer equipment will be purchased.

Current library services and resources will only be maintained if voters approve the levy, which Woolf-Ivory stated would stabilize library funding through 2014, by collecting more money than would be spent in the first year, even as it paid back the libraries' reserve fund. The libraries would not invest in additional staff or new services with this levy money.

Woolf-Ivory acknowledged that 95 percent of the libraries' revenue comes from property tax revenues, which are allowed to increase 1 percent a year, but added that the libraries' yearly expenses have increased at a higher rate. She noted that library usage has increased during the economic downturn, and pointed out that libraries offer online resources which facilitate job searching and applications.

Sno-Isle Libraries Community Relations Director Mary Kelly spoke of the libraries' focus on programs for children and teens as quality of life concerns for families, especially since they offer free local entertainment and education.

"We're a unique organization, in that we serve the very young through senior citizens equally," Woolf-Ivory said.

If the levy is approved, it would increase the library tax rate by 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, setting the levy rate at 40 cents per $1,000. For a $200,000 home, this would result in an increased cost of $18 a year, and for a $300,000 home, it would mean an increase of $27 a year. Patrons can calculate the value they get from their Sno-Isle Libraries by logging onto

Arlington Library usage statistics:

Door count in July of 2009: 23,644, up 88 percent from July of 2008.

Total circulation in April of 2009: 24,884, up 10 percent from April of 2008.

Summer reading signups for 2008: 332.

Summer reading signups for 2009: 674.

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