Opinion: Lake Stevens Library bond merits voters’ support

 (This editorial was published Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 in The Daily Herald newspaper as the opinion of The Herald Editorial Board.)

Little has changed since last year’s close-but-no-library election in Lake Stevens, either in the need for a new library in the quickly growing Snohomish County community or in the proposal itself.

Backers of the new library, which would be operated as the current library is by the 21-library Sno-Isle Libraries system, saw no reason to scale back their proposal based on the strong support that voters showed last year.

Last February, voters in Lake Stevens voted with 69 percent approval to create a library taxing district — which mirrors the boundaries of the Lake Stevens School District — and gave 66 percent approval for the $17 million bond request to build the new library, 6 percentage points greater than the 60 percent supermajority that bond elections require.

The threshold that the library bond wasn’t able to meet was the validation requirement that at least 40 percent of the voters in the previous general election turn out for the election. Library backers missed that mark by some 749 voters, but only because the previous election was the 2016 presidential election, and turnout was particularly high in most Lake Stevens precincts.

Lake Stevens, now with a population nearing 32,000 and expected to reach 47,500 by 2025, many of them families, is in desperate need to replace its current 2,400-square foot facility, one that is smaller than most single-family homes. The current library struggles to meet the needs of its community, yet logged more than 110,000 visits in 2016 and checked out more than 175,000 items.

The current library leases city-owned space in the North Cove neighborhood, land on which the city has its own development plans.

What the bond, providing up to $17 million, would build is a library nearly eight times the size of the current library, at 20,00 square feet, with space for 70,000 books and other media, 40 study chairs, 30 public computers and a community room.

In the year since last year’s request to voters, a few details have changed.

The library would be built on property already purchased by the Sno-Isle system in the Chapel Hill neighborhood at 99th Avenue and Market Place. But library and city officials now have a better sense of how the library will fit in with a city campus that is planned to include a police station and a city services building.

And because of an increase in property values, the millage rate for the 20-year bond would also be a few cents less at 21.1 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a median-valued $387,000 home would pay about $82 a year.

Assuming voters approve the bond measure, the community’s involvement would continue as Sno-Isle works with residents this spring and summer regarding the design and look of the new library.

Voters have an important task in levy and bond elections, as they are determining a portion of the property taxes that nearly all home and business owners will pay in coming years. But along with costs to individual property owners, voters also should consider the investment they are being asked to make.

Along with the library bond, Lake Stevens voters also will vote on levies for the Lake Stevens School District: a four-year replacement levy for the district’s programs and operation at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value; and a four-year technology levy, ranging from 33 cents to 25 cents per $1,000.

Voters should view the library’s and school district’s requests as complementary investments that will significantly contribute to the livability of Lake Stevens and to the education and development of its children.

For more information regarding the Lake Stevens Library bond, go to tinyurl.com/LSLibraryBond.

Feb. 13 special election

Voters in several districts in Snohomish County are being asked to submit ballots for the Feb. 13 special election for levies and/or bonds in their community.

Elections are being held in the following districts: Arlington School District, Darrington School District, Darrington’s Fire District 24, Edmonds School District, Everett School District, Granite Falls School District, Index School District, Lake Stevens School District, Lake Stevens Library District, Monroe School District, Mukilteo School District, Northshore School District, Snohomish School District, Stanwood-Camano School District and the Sultan School District

Ballots are being mailed today, and can be returned by mail (with a postage stamp) or at one of several ballot drop boxes throughout the county by 8 p.m. Feb. 13. For a list of drop-box locations, go to tinyurl.com/SnoCoDropBoxList.

New voters can register until Feb. 5 in person at the county elections office.