SPOKANE, Wash. - Libraries across Spokane County may be forced to close their doors if voters choose not to approve a $2 million restoration levy in this August's primary election.
If approved, the levy would keep the Spokane County Library District's 11 libraries, which saw 1.3 million visitors last year, up and running. A portion of the money would go towards improvements to security and the libraries' HVAC systems, as well as expand the district's digital collection.
Over the last ten years, executive director Patrick Roewe said he's seen the library experience change and the district needs money to grow along with it.
"We have power users who, you know, use our resources that might not actually step foot in a brick and mortar building," Roewe said. "Our digital use has exploded in the last ten years. A 2700% increase in digital use in the last decade."
The levy tax rate currently sits at 43 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. If approved, the levy rate would jump to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed property value -- meaning the owners of a home with a $235,000 assessment would see an increase from $101.15 to $117.50 annually.
If voters do not approve the restoration levy, the district would be forced to make cuts across the board.
"We'd be looking at potential reductions in services, so programs like story time, our other learning opportunities, reductions in staff, library materials both physical and digital resources, and potentially closure of libraries and reduction in hours, as well," Roewe said, adding the levy feels even more crucial now that cuts have been made to libraries at Spokane Public Schools. "You know, it does sort of heighten the need and value of libraries, certainly and it's something we certainly are thinking about."
This levy is separate from the library bond passed by Spokane voters in November -- that vote focused on city libraries, while this levy restoration vote is centered around county libraries. Voters will see this measure on their primary ballots August 6.
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