Library vote still too close to call

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A ballot measure to fund Pierce County Library Service was passing by a razor-thin margin early this week. Voters were asked to restore the current levy and return the rate to its full legal amount of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, for an increase of approximately 10 cents. For the owner of a house assessed at $320,000, this would be approximately a $32 increase in 2019.

If approved, the restored levy would maintain current library service hours and fund staff and services. Voters last approved a levy in 2006. Since then, the population within the district has grown by 16 percent, up to 602,000 people. The number of library cards has increased by 63 percent during that time, up to 320,000.

As of Nov. 19, the measure had 105,703 yes votes, or 50.23 percent, compared to 104,877 no votes, or 49.77 percent. A total of 345,867 voters live within the district boundaries. So far, 17,437 ballots have been returned with this measure blank, meaning those voters did not cast a vote on this measure.

“It is too close to call right now,” said Mary Getchell, marketing and communications director for the system. Getchell said the measure requires a simple majority to pass, or 50 percent plus one vote. The final vote count will be on Nov. 26, with the results being certified the following day at 11 a.m.

If the measure fails, the system will eliminate and reduce services, including fewer open hours at branches, fewer books and other materials, fewer classes and events, and the possible closure of two or three branches.

State law limits local governments, including library districts, to an increase in property taxes of no more than 1 percent plus property taxes from new construction each year. Property taxes make up about 94 percent of the system’s revenues.

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