Library Annexation Special Report: Cost full of uncertainty
By CELESTE GRACEY
Renton Reporter Staff Writer
January 8, 2010 · Updated 10:23 AM
The same day Renton votes on annexing to the King County Library System, KCLS’s current residents will decide whether to increase the system’s taxes.
The Feb. 9 vote is just one unknown factor that could change what people would pay for KCLS and how much more people could pay if the Renton Library System remains independent.
The KCLS vote could increase its tax burden from about $168 for a home worth about $400,000 to $200 a year. In comparison, Renton homeowners are now paying about $104 for their current system.
A tax increase would max out how much money KCLS can take by state law. However, the levy rate wouldn’t be permanent, as a state initiative would drive down the rate for the next several years, said KCLS director Bill Ptacek.
“Our goal was not to go back to the voters more often than we have to,” he said, adding that much of the money collected in 2011 would be saved.
The Renton City Council hasn’t decided what it would do with money budgeted for the Master Plan to see what residents wanted and how much it would cost, said library director Bette Anderson.
The 2008 plan came out just before the economy tanked, forcing cuts over improvements.
“If the economy stayed the way it was, it (the master plan) would have been more possible,” she said.
The City Council could propose a levy to pay for the library improvements. If approved by voters, it could cost the average homeowner an additional $88 per year.
“It could take the rest of the year to get something like that going,” Palmer said of a levy.
However, any levy likely would be held off until the economy improves.
“I can’t even begin to guess when we’d come forward to the voters to increase our library services,” said Law. “It’s not likely to be something we’d bring forward anytime soon... given the financial constraints we’re facing.”
The master plan also recommends Renton add 60,000 square feet of building space. Renton’s main space downtown is about 24,000 square feet.
With both library systems, the City of Renton will have to pay for capital projects on its own. Necessary building improvements are estimated to cost homeowners about $68 annually.
However, if Renton annexes to KCLS, unused money budgeted for the library will likely be used to pay for building improvements, Law said.
Trying to compare the cost of remaining independent and annexing to KCLS isn’t easy. Calculating how much taxes would increase for homeowners is even trickier.
If Renton annexes to KCLS, homeowners of a $400,000 home would pay $168-$200 in additional taxes. These numbers assume the City of Renton uses the current library budget to fund capital projects and doesn’t offer a tax break.
If the City of Renton remains independent and then passes a levy, the average homeowner could pay an additional $156 per year in taxes. This includes capital project costs.
“I think this decision is something that should be put to the voters and not seven people,” Palmer said referring to City Council.Contact Renton Reporter Staff Writer Celeste Gracey at email@example.com or 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.