The library’s ‘insult’ being addressed at last


Once the people running the Kitsap County Rural Library District made up their minds on building new libraries in Silverdale and Kingston, getting them to change their plans apparently required a shock to their system.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola seems to have found a way to get them to reconsider by speaking in terms that are customary for commercial negotiations, but that are shocking to the ears of people in government.

The library district’s plan to seek a property tax lid lift that would annually collect about $138,000 extra from Port Orchard and roughly another $650,000 from unincorporated areas in South Kitsap had a flaw.

Over a period of 10 years, South Kitsap taxpayers would pay about $7.9 million in extra taxes to the library district, but only $750,000 would be spent on capital improvements to the library in Port Orchard and $400,000 for the Manchester library.

In the same period, a similar amount of tax revenue would be collected from Central Kitsap, while $7.75 million would be spent for a new library in Silverdale.

The difference in treatment is glaring, so it seems clear why Coppola would describe the proposal as an “insult.”

Some members of the city council used tamer language to describe their difficulty in accepting the idea that the proposal was fair, but the “insult” word seems to have stung enough to get through to them.

The mystery is that it took a strong objection from the mayor to get some movement from the library district.

Was there no other voice speaking up for South Kitsap as the plans took shape last year?

It seems almost anyone concerned about the libraries serving South Kitsap would have asked what makes Silverdale and Kingston so special that they should have everyone pay for their libraries while the rest of us fend for ourselves.

If memory serves correctly, someone did ask that question last October; but it seems to have had little effect — not even preparing the library district leaders for the reaction they got from Port Orchard in April.

Other than the one occasion in October, the library district’s leaders seem to have obtained their advice from people who wouldn’t say a discouraging word.

But now that there’s some movement, perhaps the public’s attention can be turned to the central question — whether to change the way we and most everyone else have paid for new library buildings.

Traditionally, new buildings would be funded in one of two ways — either private fundraising (as on Bainbridge Island) or a library capital facility area (the Poulsbo area) would provide the funds.

The Kitsap County Rural Library District would like to use its regular levy as a source of funding through a voter-approved lid lift.

Trying to use this funding source is difficult because of the need to get voter approval to collect the funds in proportion to each area’s taxable property and spend them in one area but not another.

It might be easier if there were a reasonable hope that this would be the way we do things for the next couple of decades. Then, everyone could wait for their area’s turn.

The trouble is that lid lifts are only possible when the library district’s tax rate is lower than the maximum allowed by statute.

There can be long dry spells during which lid lifts aren’t possible — for example, the period from 1979 when the library district last had a lid lift and 2002, when the new 1 percent limit factor began to reduce the tax rate below the maximum.

Betting on future changes in property values and future lid lift approvals involves uncertainty. Areas waiting their turn may have a longer than expected wait.

When people point out that their place in line involves a high probability that they’ll have paid for new libraries elsewhere and then pay for their own without assistance, it’s a reason to reconsider the plan.

It’s not a reason to behave as though strong words aren’t appropriate in pointing out the plan’s flaws.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.