Kitsap Regional Library ponders its next step

The Kitsap Regional Libraries Board of Trustees met this week to plan strategy about another voter initiative to raise property taxes to support library services, but did not decide whether to commit to the idea.

“We talked about a lot of things, like how we can change the message,” KRL Director Jill Jean said of a retreat on Wednesday. “But we have not decided if we are going to be on the November ballot.” 

In order to face the voters again, the proposal must be submitted to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office by Aug. 14. This means the board must decide within the next two weeks how to proceed and write a proposal different from what was defeated by the voters on May 15.

The item will presumably be discussed during a board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on July 26 at the Bremerton Library.

The last KRL proposal — which would have increased the property tax allocation from 33 cents to 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — was soundly defeated. Since losing the initiative, library officials have talked about changing their message and offering more specifics about how any increase would be used.

Jean said earlier this month the system would probably ask for an adjusted rate of 38 cents to 42 cents per $1,000, or a top range of $42 for each $100,000 of assessed value.

This is a smaller rate of increase than what was originally proposed. Voter feedback showed opposition stemming from the high percentage of the increase, rather than how the money was to be allocated.

The decision as to how — or whether — to proceed will be partially determined by the results of a recently completed phone survey of area residents.

The survey, funded by a $20,000 cap by the Kitsap Library Advocates with no KRL funds, polled 500 local residents at random.

It was conducted by the Metropolitan Group in Portland, Ore. whose senior director, Jennifer Gilstrap Hearn, said the information will be gathered into a report and presented to KRL.

Hearn, who could not discuss specifics of the KRL case, said, “In general, for libraries to be successful, they need to serve the community, understand what the community wants and provide these services.” 

Bainbridge Island resident Lois Andrus, who received a survey call, said the effort was misguided.

“When they call people at random and ask them some questions, it misses the point,” she said. “They need to figure out some better funding sources. Maybe they need to talk to the Legislature. These humongous tax increases are killing any efforts to raise extra money in this way.”

Andrus suggested conducting an audit of the past years’ spending “and a thoughtful plan for the future, which might include some creative solutions for the funding problem.”

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