On Nov. 6, Pierce County voters will be asked whether to approve a restored levy for Pierce County Libraries.

In the days and weeks leading up to election day, local librarians want to let their community know why this restored levy is so important.

Through October, the Pierce County Library System is hosting Coffee with your Librarian open houses to discuss library funding with its community members.

At the open houses, staff members will be on hand to answer questions about Proposition No. 1, the ballot measure to restore Pierce County Library System’s regular property tax levy rate.

If approved, the restored levy would increase to its full legal amount of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, approximately a 10-cent increase, to maintain library services.

The ballot measure comes as the Pierce County Library System has seen its service and operation costs outpace property-tax revenue. Library costs have increased an average of between 4-7 percent per year, while property tax revenue has risen an average of between 1-3 percent per year.

Pierce County Libraries rely heavily on property-tax revenue, as property taxes make up roughly 94 percent of the library’s revenue. Though state law limits local governments, including Pierce County Library, to an increase in property taxes of no more than 1 percent plus property taxes from new construction each year.

This November’s ballot measure marks the second time the library system put a restored levy to voters. In 2006, voters approved to re-authorize the library system’s levy rate of 48 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

That levy was meant to maintain services for the next six years. The library system managed to extend its use of that funding for 12 years.

“It’s been 12 years now. We’ve stretched beyond what was intended,” said Mary Getchell, marketing and communications director with Pierce County Library System.
Since 2006, the library system’s service area population has grown from 518,000 to 600,000. The number of people with Pierce County Library cards has risen from 198,000 to 323,000. The demand for service has gone up, as the library system reports a 79 percent increase in classes and events attendance, a 44 percent increase in its computer use, and a 96 percent increase in connecting people to its Wi-Fi.

If approved, the restored levy would maintain library services by allowing additional hours at 20 library locations. It would restore the library's offering of books, e-books, movies and other materials to library cardholders. It would support staff to provide learning assistance with thousands of classes and events. And it would maintain library services like Wi-Fi and technology use, as well as use of its community spaces.

Should the restored levy fail, it will lead to the elimination of library services. This would include a reduction in hours that libraries would be open to the public, a 14-21 percent decrease in materials like books and movies that the library would be able to provide, a 40 percent reduction in classes and events, and the closure of two to three libraries.

No one wants to see libraries close. If anything, the opposite is true. When a Community Advisory Committee was tasked with gathering input from thousands of community members while analyzing the library system’s funding, it became clear that more service was wanted.

“This is definitely to restore the levy back to the authorized amount. It’s maintaining the services that the public has been using and only told us they want more of,” Getchell said. “It’s up to the vote of the people, that’s why we have it on the ballot on Nov. 6.”

Upcoming Coffee with your Librarian open houses will take place from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 at Eatonville Pierce County Library and from 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. on Oct. 9 at South Hill Pierce County Library.

For more, visit piercecountylibrary.org or levy.pcls.us.