Long-delayed “Levy Lid Lift” Would Keep SJI Library Strong & Growing

An audience made up mostly of library staff and Friends of the San Juan Island Library, as well as several citizens and two journalists witnessed a presentation Thursday evening by three library trustees and two staffers.  The meeting was held at The Grange.

Trustees explained a proposed raise in the levy for the library junior taxing district.  That proposition will be submitted to voters on the Aug. 6 ballot.  A simple majority would pass the levy increase.

The last raise in the levy for the library was approved by voters in 2011 and it was intended to continue through 2018, but Trustees expressed pride that they made the levy last an additional six years without an increase.  One percent raises are allowed, and for years the library built up a reserve.  But recent years of high inflation have eaten-up the reserve, and now the tax revenue is no longer enough to sustain current services and maintenance on the current facility, which is bursting at the seams.

Trustees repeated over and over that the property tax revenue will go only to library operations, and not to development of its Spring Street property.  They said the trustees have “pivoted” away from the effort to build the new library, and they will — in the future — strive to raise 60 percent of the cost of building a new library at Spring Street with grants and donations.  They also stated that any future capital bond proposal would total far less than the $12 million previously rejected by voters.

Trustees said the idea of devoting some of the Spring Street facility to affordable housing is on the table, but again stressed passing the levy increase is their central focus now.

The current levy is 25.39 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.  The new amount would be 41 cents.  State law limits libraries to 50 cents.  Library campaign materials state that the levy increase would translate to an additional $113 a year on a property worth $750,000 here.

Trustees President Boyd Pratt reminded the audience of what most in the room already knew:  that few communities in the State of Washington love and use their library as much as San Juan Island.  He ticked down the list:

  • SJI Library has the second largest collection per capita in the State (second only to Orcas Island)
  • Program attendance ranks fifth in the state, per capita
  • SJI library ranks #7 in the State for library visits, per capita
  • An astounding 60 percent of San Juan Islanders hold an SJI Library card

Pratt beamed with pride at the mention of SJI Library’s 2015 “Excellence in Rural Public Library Service Award” for towns 10,000 or less.  Our library was named best in that category in all the United States.

A campaign document entitled “Levy Lid Lift Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) which was passed out at the meeting pledged that if the levy increase passes “the library commits to refraining from seeking a new lift until 2035.” (page 2)

Without the levy increase, the same document states, “Operations using the current budget without an increase in revenue will result in reduced programs, collections, and services; staff cuts; reduced hours; and deferred building maintenance.” (page 7)

In the same document, the Library addresses in depth why selling the Spring Street property would do little to stem the need for funds in the future. (pages 7-9)

The online version of the FAQ can be found here.

A similar meeting for citizens in the Roche Harbor area is being planned for May.


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