With a final price tag of $219 million, the Seattle City Council has finalized the Seattle Library levy proposal for the August ballot.
CHS wrote here about the core seven-year property tax proposal that will replace an expiring levy and will provide about 25% of the system’s budget.
“From story time to summer learning programs to adult learning classes, our libraries advance equity, education and opportunity for all who call Seattle home,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement to CHS about the levy. “If we are going to build a city of the future, then we must build the libraries of the future, too. By renewing our shared investments in The Seattle Public Library, we can lift up the places where communities come together, open up doors to learning, and make Seattle a more equitable place to live.”
The council added around $6 million in amendments including money to fund expansion of Play and Learn developmentally-appropriate learning experiences, and $2.51 million to keep the 26 branch libraries open one hour later Monday through Thursday.
Increased access to the library is a major component of the 2019 levy proposal. High Point, International District/Chinatown and South Park branches would get additional morning and evening hours and four other branches — Delridge, NewHolly, Green Lake and Wallingford — would be open Fridays. The levy also adds one hour at all locations on Sundays, shifting openings from 1 PM to noon.
Another $8.3 million per year would be used under the new levy for collection ventures, most of which would continue investments made in 2012. Included in this aspect is an emphasis on the acquisition of books on world languages and increased access to local history resources.
A majority of the $219 million 2019 proposal — $167.4 million, adjusting for inflation — would be used to continue services funded by the existing levy.
At around $31.3 million per year, the seven-year levy proposal raises around $43 for the library per Seattle citizen. Altogether, the system is spending around $172 per citizen per year.
The proposal would include elimination of overdue fines for checked out library materials, which would cost $8 million over the next seven years. Patrons who owe more than $15 are blocked from checking out library materials, a policy that tends to hurt people with less money more heavily. 18% of accounts at the Capitol Hill branch are blocked, for example, with an average balance of $7.82, while the nearby Montlake library has the lowest block rate and lowest average balance in the city. Meanwhile, south Seattle branches, such as NewHolly and Rainier Beach, have 37% and 36% of library accounts blocked, respectively.
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