Help save our libraries

My daughter and two-year-old grandson Ari used to go to Seattle regularly to visit the zoo. The current economy has changed that. Now, their destination is the library — for toddler storytimes, children’s books, or free DVDs. They are among many individuals and families who find themselves turning to their local library during difficult economic times. We see new faces every day in our 21 libraries — people who need help finding a job, parents who use the library’s free resources to check out books or movies for their families, and students who access online library resources to help them succeed in school.

Communities need libraries more than ever. And your tax dollars make public libraries possible.

On Nov. 3, there will be a library levy increase measure on the ballot. Sno-Isle Libraries Proposition 1 requests a 9¢ increase to the library levy rate, raising it from 31¢ to 40¢/$1,000 of assessed value. The increased cost to a property owner would be about $27 a year on a home valued at $300,000. This modest levy increase, combined with budget cuts, will provide enough revenue to maintain current service levels and hours and stabilize library funding for five years.

Asking for a levy increase in the current economy was a difficult decision for the Sno-Isle Libraries Board of Trustees. In a series of community meetings, stakeholder interviews, and through two web surveys last spring, we asked our communities: “should we increase revenue or make more cuts?” We consistently heard that people value libraries, and want us to maintain current library service. Our communities asked us to consider a smaller levy increase combined with tightening our belt by further reducing our expenses.

We listened. The Board of Trustees committed to making additional budgets and is seeking a small levy increase. Most importantly, the Board decided to give communities the opportunity to make the decision about library funding.

The Board has already directed staff to make additional budget reductions in 2010, regardless of the election outcome. These include:

• Reducing the salary of nine senior administrators by 3 percent,

• Freezing salaries for remaining staff,

• Delaying replacement of the library computer system until 2011,

• Reducing materials and equipment budgets, and

• Eliminating a number of vacant positions.

If the levy fails, we will need to make deeper reductions to balance the 2010 budget, including fewer open hours in all of our libraries.

Just like you, the Board and I care about our communities. Our goal is that your public library has the resources you and your family need, whether that is help finding a job, introducing your preschooler to books and reading, or finding a good book to read.

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