Letters to the Editor

Madsen responds to 'dismayed by special election...' | Letters

I am responding to Mr. Vincellette's letter in the interest of clarification, since it's pretty likely that I was the speaker he heard at his service club.

The way property-tax-supported services work is somewhat complicated and counter-intuitive, and I apologize if my explanation at his service club wasn’t clear.

There is no "double talk" involved here, just the difficulty of explaining complex issues quickly and concisely.

The size of the levy lid lift increase is necessary in order to fully fund the library for the next six years, without increasingly large cuts to service levels.

Since taxing districts are subject to the 1 percent limitation on revenue increases mandated by state law, they face one of two choices: continually cutting services to match whatever can be funded within the 1 percent limitation, or spending savings and reserves to preserve services.

The San Juan Island Library District has been using the second path for several years.

Property tax receipts are already too low to fund the current level of service, and the difference has been made up through the use of reserve funds. In 2011, the library used over $85,000 in reserve funds, and will need to use even more in 2012.

The reserves that have been allowing the district to fill the gap between the current expenses and property tax receipts will be almost completely exhausted by the end of 2012.

As a result, if island voters don’t vote to “lift” the property tax rate, the board and library management will need to begin making cuts to service levels next year and increasingly more every year thereafter.

A levy lid lift will, indeed, generate added revenue for the library. But the library will not be increasing its budget by the same amount, and in fact will continue to operate at the same service level it does today.

The library will be placing the bulk of the levy proceeds into the reserve fund, so that over the next six years it can provide the services the community needs (and wants, according to the recent public Long Range Planning process).

Finally, I want to respond to the statement that this is a "special election."  It is not.

The library's Board of Trustees chose to place the issue on the August Primary Election ballot because taxing districts must complete their budgets and certify their levy amounts with the county assessor in November.

Asking Island voters to discuss and vote on this issue in August gives the library enough time to take into account the election results and do a careful job of preparing its 2012 budget before November. There was no way to know that this would be the only issue on the San Juan Island primary ballot.

Mark Madsen

San Juan Island

(This letter was written as a private citizen and does not represent the opinion of the San Juan Island Library District or the Board of Trustees). Madsen is a member of the library's Board of Trustees.

 

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