Update: Sno-Isle levy going down to wire

Island County voting for; Snohomish County voting against
By Brian Soergel | Apr 26, 2018

Early election returns show Snohomish County voters rejecting Sno-Isle Libraries’ property tax levy, even though results from Edmonds’ 52 voting precincts show that 42 of them – including all in the Bowl –voted for it.

However, the combined totals for Snohomish and Island Counties, as of 5 p.m. Wednesday – with 112,650 votes counted – have the levy passing with 56,579 (50.23 percent) for and 56,071 votes (49.77 percent) against.

In Edmonds, the areas with the most “yes votes” came from precinct 4, west of Fifth Avenue South between Pine and Dayton streets, and precinct 5, west of Fifth Avenue South between Elm and Pine streets.

Parts of areas that voted against the levy were centered along the county line, a portion of Meadowdale, west of Olympic View Drive along with waterfront and portions of Perrinville and Maplewoood.

The area with the most “no” votes was in Meadowdale near Meadowdale Beach Road.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, in Snohomish County there were 47,994 "no" votes, or 52.42 percent, and 43,570 "yes" votes, or 47.58 percent. The measure requires a simple majority to pass.

It was a different story in Island County, where the first tally showed voters approving the levy by a wide margin – 62 percent (13,009) to 38 percent (8,077).

Results will be certified May 4.

Proposition 1 called for adding 9 cents to the current library property tax levy. If passed, the levy rate in 2019 would be 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Sno-Isle Libraries receives 98 percent of its funding from the property tax levy across most of Snohomish County (Everett and Woodway have their own libraries) and all of Island County.

Earlier this month, the Beacon reported that Edmonds Councilmember Dave Teitzel – using figures supplied by Sno-Isle – said Edmonds taxpayers were “subsidizing” Sno-Isle.

In 2016, Edmonds taxpayers paid $3.26 million in library tax assessments. Sno-Isle, in turn, recorded $2.85 million in expenditures to the Edmonds Library. It’s the only city in the 23-library system that puts in more than it gets. All taxpayers in Snohomish and Island counties pay the same amount, as per state law.

Teitzel says the reason for the disparity is due to Edmonds’ high property values. Sno-Isle says taxpayer money is spread throughout the two counties, and library card-holders have access to all libraries.

“We want to be cautious and wait for all ballots to be counted before assuming the measure passes or fails,” Sno-Isle Libraries executive director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said Tuesday night.

Sno-Isle spokesman Jim Hills said the levy’s rejection would mean the existing levy would continue. However, he said, revenue wouldn’t meet the rising costs of maintaining services, and the budget would be reduced starting in 2019. Projections come in at about $2 million, Sno-Isle reports.

“We need to wait and see what the outcome of this election is before deciding on next steps,” Woolf-Ivory said, adding that the early results are understandable given the difficult discussions regarding property taxes. “We know that talking about and voting for property taxes is tough,” she said.

Tax exhaustion

There’s no doubt many Snohomish County residents are reeling from tax exhaustion. In addition to an average $800 property tax increase in 2018 (mostly to pay for education, although councilmembers also voted on a 1 percent property and emergency medical services increases), sales tax rose again, this time due to Sound Transit 3. Sales tax now is 10.3 percent in Edmonds.

In February, voters approved Edmonds School District’s school programs and operations levy. The levy collection would average $62.75 million per year from homeowners for each of the next four years, 2019 through 2022. The district is looking to put a replacement technology levy on the ballot in 2020, as well as a construction bond the same year.

Another levy looms: Taxpayers may soon be asked to pony up to replace the aging 911 Snohomish County Emergency Radio System (SERS).

Made good on promise

Things were no less difficult in 2009, Woolf-Ivory said, when the last Sno-Isle levy passed.

“It was the front edge of the recession,” she said. “We said we wouldn’t come back for at least five years, and we made good on that promise and then some. We used careful, thoughtful and practical management then and, if given the chance, we will use the same approach going forward.”

To maintain services, Sno-Isle Libraries would continue to evolve along with customers and communities, Woolf-Ivory said.

“More customers are downloading books, music and video, and our collection reflects those choices,” Woolf-Ivory said. “More communities are looking to the library as a gathering place and programs such as the ‘Issues That Matter’ series. We are meeting those changing needs now, and are looking ahead to meet community and customer needs in the future.”

 

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