Pierce County Li­brary Sys­tem levy out­come too close to call

The News Tribune - - Local - BY DEB­BIE COCKRELL dcock­rell@the­new­stri­bune.com Deb­bie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Deb­bie_Cock­rell

For li­brary fans out­side of Ta­coma, whether or not your li­brary stays open is still hang­ing in the bal­ance.

With just 706 votes sep­a­rat­ing the Pierce County Li­brary Sys­tem’s levy lid lift, the out­come was too close to call Fri­day night.

The mea­sure so far is be­ing re­jected, 87,279 to 86,573.

Mary Getchell, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for the li­brary sys­tem, told The News Tri­bune on Fri­day evening: “We con­tinue to be at Elec­tion Day 4 and count­ing, with too many votes un­counted.”

The sys­tem’s King County vot­ers, served by the Mil­ton li­brary, were pass­ing the mea­sure.

The li­brary sys­tem held events at its branches and in the com­mu­nity to ed­u­cate peo­ple on why the levy rate needed to be restored. The main point: Op­er­a­tional costs are ris­ing faster than rev­enue be­cause of the growth in ser­vices and ma­te­ri­als.

Pas­sage would have restored the levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of as­sessed prop­erty value. The owner of a $317,000 house, the av­er­age value in the li­brary ser­vice dis­trict, would pay $159 in taxes, up from $128, should the mea­sure pass.

In 2006 vot­ers passed a restored levy that at the time was pro­jected to main­tain ser­vices for up to six years, which the sys­tem said it made last for twice as long.

Mean­while, “the li­brary’s ser­vice area pop­u­la­tion has grown by 16 per­cent to 602,000 peo­ple, and the num­ber of peo­ple with li­brary cards has grown by 63 per­cent to 323,000 peo­ple,” the li­brary sys­tem said in a news re­lease.

Hopes were high that the in­fu­sion of funds would give the sys­tem a chance to main­tain and ex­pand cur­rent op­er­a­tions and staffing for classes and events; com­put­ers, Wi-Fi and tech­nol­ogy; and com­mu­nity spa­ces.

Without the restored funds, the li­brary sys­tem faces cuts in ser­vices, in­clud­ing hours of op­er­a­tion, books, movies and other ma­te­ri­als, classes and events. Two to three branches also might be closed.

The process of fig­ur­ing out which li­braries would close would start next year if the mea­sure fails.

The next bal­lot count is Tues­day at 4 p.m.

For now the sys­tem has two ver­sions of its bud­get to con­sider, one with a restored levy and one without.

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