LETTERS ON SJI LIBRARY TAX INCREASE
---------------------------------------Truth In Taxation Is Imperative
To the Editor:
I agree with Paul Dossett [Dossett column
]that "truth in taxation is imperative."
But it is quite a stretch when he asks us to compare the library's tax levy to the small property tax in the Town of Friday Harbor.
The Town keeps well ahead of the game because all of the residents in town pay some of the highest utility rates in the state, and in addition the Town takes in twice as much in sales tax as in property tax. That's what allows the town to keep such a large, healthy reserve.
The library proposal is prudent and far from extravagant. Voting yes will help maintain the fine Library we have.
---------------------------------------The Real Story
[The following is in response to a column by Paul Dossett -Ed
To the Editor:
In 1993 the San Juan Island Library District asked Island voters to increase its property tax rate to fifty cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. Through thrift and careful budgeting, the Library has since then lived on an ever-diminishing tax rate, which now stands at 27 cents, down from that original 50 cents. Now, eighteen years later, the Library is once again appealing to voters for a modest increase in this rate, not to the maximum allowable 50 cents, but to 39 cents.
For the last several years, it has been apparent that with expenses increasing by an average of six percent per year, while revenue collection has been capped by state law at increases of only one percent per year, the Library would reach a point where it could no longer deliver its existing level of services. That time arrived in 2011. In its budget for this year, the Library has begun to use its reserves to continue functioning. It is projected that, without a levy lid lift, by the end of 2012 the Library will have eaten through all its reserves and will have to cut services.
This is stark reality, but let’s take a closer look at the context. About 97% of the Library’s funding comes from property taxes, a huge difference from the funding of the Town of Friday Harbor, which gets only 26% of its revenue from property taxes. (The Town’s 2009 property tax rate, by the way, was almost 75 cents per thousand).
A comparison of our Library’s per capita spending with that of the two other Island Library Districts, Orcas and Lopez, presents a more useful picture, and shows that the San Juan Island Library’s spending is squarely in line. In 2009, Orcas spent $98.25 per capita, San Juan spent $103.95, and Lopez spent $147.26. These are outstanding libraries, and the state limitation on increasing tax revenues impacts them all.
Recently, there has been a suggestion that the Library has been less than candid about its finances. We urge a look at the mass of publicly available financial data the Library Board of Trustees reviewed when they decided to ask for a levy lid lift; Board minutes; the Library’s detailed and public budgets; and the Library’s Annual Report, available at the Library, on its website, and on the levy campaign website, http://islandersforsjlib.org/.
It’s true that if the lid lift passes, the Library will for several years have more revenue than it had in 2011. But it plans no significant expansion of services or programs. The Library certainly has no plans to increase its budget by forty percent next year or in the foreseeable future. Instead, the Library will, as do many Island residents, bank its “summer money” as a reserve to sustain it against the hard winters that are coming over the next six years, when the Library will once again be limited to annual 1% tax-revenue increases.
The San Juan Island Library touches the lives of all the Island’s residents. Make sure it stays strong by voting “YES” on ballot proposition #1.
By Islanders for the SJ Library
---------------------------------------Supports Library Levy Lid Lift
To the Editor:
First, a disclaimer: I am writing this as a private citizen, and not in any official capacity whatsoever.
In the past year, San Juan County has seen a number of discussions and ballot propositions that involve property taxes, and I have repeatedly heard people say that this county has the highest property tax rate in the state. I had no reason to doubt this statement, since many of the people saying it were knowledgeable, thoughtful folks.
In the course of a conversation I had over Independence Day weekend with a very knowledgeable, thoughtful friend, however, I realized I had never actually checked this so-called fact. So I decided to do so.
It’s not so. It’s very much not so. It’s the exact opposite of right. In fact, San Juan County’s property tax rate is the very lowest in the state. By a lot.
In 2010, our county property tax rate was $4.88 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. The second lowest county, Kittitas, had a tax rate of $7.13, or almost one and one-half times our tax rate!
This information, along with a wealth of other information about property tax and other Washington taxes, can easily be found on the web site for the state Department of Revenue. The web site is found here.
This is information we all need as voters. Starting this week when we receive our primary election ballots, voters in the San Juan Island Library District will be asked to allow the Library to upgrade its property tax levy, from under $0.27 per thousand dollars of assessed value to $0.39. Granting this request will maintain the framework of the Library’s existing operation for another six years.
It’s important to remember that our property tax rate is by far the lowest in the state. This additional 12 cents will not change that.
I urge voters to keep our Library strong by voting “YES” on San Juan Island Library District Proposition No. 1 by August 16, 2011.
San Juan Island
---------------------------------------Help preserve our amazing San Juan Island Library!
To the Editor:
There are many things that make San Juan Island a special place to call home-the breathtaking, natural settings and wildlife that surround us; the strong support network that our small community provides; and the fabulous public services that our island offers.
One of the valuable public services that we rely upon is our Library, and we rely upon it a lot. In 2010-11 alone, the Library sponsored 523 classes and programs that served over 11,000 attendees. In 2010, the Library lent a stunning 177,000 items to 5,800 of us and provided over 20,000 logins access to the internet on public computers. Our Library supplies us with a remarkably broad range of both traditional and modern services, from borrowing books, movies, TV shows, and documentaries to attending movie screenings, concerts, and meetings, and even utilizing videoconference. And when I can’t find a book or movie at the Library, they will order it through interlibrary loan-thank you Colorado!
Although we are fortunate not to have to pay for these amazing services out-of-pocket, they are not free. The Library’s regular expenses -not accounting for growth- increase each year an average of 5-6% due to increasing costs of healthcare, services, an aging building, etc. But approximately 97% of the Library’s funding comes from annual property taxes, and the Library’s tax revenue by law is only allowed to increase by 1% per year regardless of the actual increase in property values. Because of the gap between increasing costs and revenues, we have fallen behind in meeting the Library’s needs. To deal with that shortfall, the Library has conserved its resources and has relied upon its savings. But the Library’s savings will be exhausted sometime next year. If we don’t act together to increase its tax revenue, it will have to begin cutting services that we need and enjoy.
The San Juan Island Library District therefore is asking the residents of San Juan Island to “lift the lid” on the San Juan Island Library District levy on August 16, 2011, increasing the levy from $0.27 per $1,000 of property value to $0.39 per $1,000 of property value. Those additional dollars will not go to fund new projects, staff, or capital improvements -those funds are needed to maintain the current level of services and the existing building for the next six years with projected costs and revenues. The Library has not asked the voters to increase the levy since 1993, at which time the levy was set at $0.50 per $1,000 of property value, the maximum amount that the San Juan Island Library District is allowed to levy. Since 1993, that rate has decreased to the existing $0.27 per $1,000 of property value because property values have increased and the Library is only entitled to increase its tax revenue by 1% per year. The Library is not now asking for the full $0.50 per thousand dollars of property value that it could request -it is asking the voters for a moderate increase to sustain it for the next six years.
The Library offers services necessary and important to all San Juan Island residents and we need to act together to sustain it. Please join me in voting YES for San Juan Island Library District Proposition No. 1 by August 16, 2011.
Chair of Islanders for the SJ Library