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Whitman County Library cuts budget for 2018 and seeks levy renewal this February

As trustees of your public library, the Whitman County Board and its director, Kristie Kirkpatrick want to raise the community’s awareness to the challenges being faced by the library district and also, share the details of the upcoming levy reset election that asks voters to restore 4 cents in funding to library coffers.

Kirkpatrick reports that over the past ten years attendance at library classes and programs for the county’s 14 branch system has risen by 40% and that doesn’t even consider door-counts of people using the libraries to check out materials or use the library’s free Wi-Fi and computers. Coupled with popular new services like downloadable eBooks, databases like ABC Mouse and the Whitman County Rural Heritage collection, library business is booming.

“If we were a business, we’d be rich” comments Kirkpatrick as related to the rising use of libraries. “The problem is, as more people use the library, we must work to stretch every dime. And our dimes are turning into 9 cent pieces.

The need to reset the library’s levy rate is a result of tax initiatives that limit library funding growth to 1% each year and result in the levy rate falling over time. With library usage and costs rising at a greater pace than tax revenues, it is vital that voters occasionally return the tax levy rate back to its standard level of $.50 cents of $1000 of assessed property value.

Library director Kristie Kirkpatrick says, “For a small library like ours, this drop of just 4 cents accounts for almost 10% of the tax budget or approximately $90,000. For WCL, that is the operational equivalent of 2-3 branch locations.

Kirkpatrick hopes taxpayers will see the value of restoring the library levy rate from the current 46 cents back to 50 cents. For the level of service county residents receive from the library, Kirkpatrick believes restoring the rate is justified. A Whitman County home valued at $150,000 would see a rise of about $6 per year, or 50 cents per month.

To cover funding shortfalls in 2018, the library has frozen staff wages, trimmed book and online materials by 20% and, eliminated costs in every place possible. Kirkpatrick adds, “This year, our goal was to cut the budget areas that least affected our library users. Frankly, there are no good choices if further cuts are required.”

Please VOTE February 13!
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