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Levy failure puts brakes on new Kingston library

KINGSTON — Kitsap Regional Library has few options left for funding a new Kingston branch this week, after voters rejected a library levy proposal.

The Regional Library planned to build and open the branch as early as 2012 in the Village Green complex off West Kingston Road. The proposed levy lid lift would have paid for the bulk of the $4 million project along with staffing and maintenance. The proposal earned 41.6 percent of votes in the Nov. 2 general election.

“We’re disappointed, but we appreciate all the people who supported us,” Kingston Branch Manager Susan Lavin said. “We’ll just keep plugging ahead.”

Along with the Kingston library, the levy would have paid for a new Silverdale branch, and building and collection upgrades county-wide.

Regional Library spokesman Brody said the Regional Library board will analyze the final results once the election is certified later this month, but the wide margin of defeat means the district probably won’t propose a levy increase in the near future.

Short on options

That means money will need to come from elsewhere if the Regional Library presses on with plans for the new branch.

One option could be a local bond measure to raise construction money. This method was used once by the Regional Libary, when North Kitsap voters approved a bond measure to help build the Poulsbo library.

A similar effort in Kingston would be much more difficult, Brody said.

First there’s the question of support. A bond proposal requires 60 percent approval. Only precinct-by-precinct election results will show how North Kitsap voters reacted to this year’s lid lift proposal, but a 15 percent margin of failure doesn’t bode well, Brody said.

“It seems unlikely to us that there was any area where the vote was particularly strong,” he said.

Bonds are also a far less efficient means of raising construction money. Bonds require large interest payments. Had the Regional Library proposed paying for the Kingston and Silverdale branches with bonds, the price tag would have been $10 to $14 million more, Brody said.

Finally, construction bonds could pay for the building but not upkeep. The expanded Kingston library would need more staff, more maintenance and utilitie’s bills, all of which the levy lid lift would have covered but a bond proposal could not.

“You still haven’t figured out how to run that building when it opens,” Brody said.

The other apparent option is to partner with another organization on a fundraising campaign.

The non-profit Village Green Foundation is already raising money for a new community center on the Kingston Village Green site. It is seeking state and federal grants for the building.

In August, North Kitsap voters approved a metropolitan park district to raise money in support of the future community center. The money will be used for operations and not for construction.

Brody said the Regional Library will be open to talking with the Foundation about ways of moving the library project forward. Plans called for the new branch to be built separate but adjacent to the Village Green community center.

Recently appointed Village Green Foundation Executive Director Nick Jewett said the foundation board was disappointed to see the library levy fail and will continue to meet regularly with Regional Library officials.

“We have a partnership,” Jewett said. “They might not have the money right now, but they’re a partner.”

Cuts coming

The failure of the levy proposal means Kitsap Regional Library won’t be expanding, but it may shrink.

The Regional Library had planned a budget for 2011 that would be ample if the levy failed, Brody said. But officials recently learned of an unexpected $250,000 in healthcare costs for the upcoming year. Some cuts will be necessary to account for that loss, Brody said.

Without a levy increase on the horizon, the Regional Library will also need to consider cutting back hours and possibly closing branches in coming years, Brody said.

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