My husband and I are 35 year residents concerned about the proposed annexation of Renton Library by KCLS. I’ve been studying the Renton annexation brochure and I find two glaring inconsistencies.

Renton City Council tries to make the point for annexation in their example of “Comparative Household Costs” on page 7 without mentioning the third possibility. That’s Renton Library continuing as is until the master plan can be implemented, continuing the reciprocal use agreement with KCLS. That figure would be .26, not .65 as shown. There would be no tax increase.

In that same brochure it’s stated that although KCLS would take over library operations, buying land and paying for new buildings or improvements would be Renton’s responsibility. Under “Would Renton Library Facilities Close?” Renton’s annexation brochure states, “In the future (2011 or later), the City of Renton and KCLS would develop and construct replacement facilities for both branches in the locations to be acquired by the city.” Then it continues “The city would be responsible for the cost of development and construction of both branches”. We taxpayers still have to pay for these improvements regardless of who implements them, and we’d have no direct control over costs.

After researching the issue I find that the annexation proposal was entered into when Fairwood expressed concerns about losing their KCLS branch (which would not occur) if they were annexed. It seems to be driven by Renton’s desire to annex another tax area, not really by the good of Renton citizens as a whole.

After careful study I don’t believe it will benefit me as a taxpayer to vote yes on annexation for several reasons.

1. Any new library grounds and building will still have to be paid for by the citizens of Renton – as spelled out in the City’s own brochure. We’d pay but KCLS would oversee the project. If I have to pay for the construction costs of the new facilities anyway, I would just as soon retain control over costs by funding the Renton Library Master Plan.

2. The Renton Annexation brochure says, “Ownership of the new library properties and buildings would be transferred to KCLS after construction.” Would the city be repaid for costs incurred? Would the buildings and improvements be transferred at the original estimated cost? At the actual cost of construction or at Fair Market Value? Who would make the valuation?

3. I was curious so I checked the state audit conducted for the KCLS building plan and found that there were cost overruns and not enough planning or oversight. I don’t really see a benefit to funding badly managed construction for KCLS out of my own pocket. http://www.sao.wa.gov/auditreports/auditreportfiles/ar1001408.pdf

4. Renton citizens would have their assessment for KCLS increased if Proposition 1 passes with no guarantee of new construction or better service. KCLS has already cut their operating budget for this year and will have to cut again if Prop 1 doesn’t pass. This doesn’t make me feel very secure about the annexation. What guarantee do we have that library service will continue with the same high quality, or continue at all? What would prevent KCLS from moving library services to Fairwood only, or Skyway, to consolidate and save money once they gain control? See http://www.kcls.org/prop1/

5. Take a look at the general fund summaries on pages 9 and 10 of the KCLS proposed 2010 budget and you can see where budgetary cuts have been made – land and building have been cut completely. How does KCLS propose to fund improvements for Renton when they have to make severe budget cuts if Prop 1 doesn’t pass? If Renton Library was to continue underfunded, as is, and the City were to pay the fee to KCLS for reciprocal borrowing, this would cost the taxpayers of Renton far less than the current proposal. Unless of course KCLS and the city don’t intend to fund improvements at all in 2010 or beyond, in which case the citizens won’t have to pay for land and buildings. And, the citizens are back to the same position they’d be in with the Renton Library continuing as is underfunded. In that case there’s no point to annexation.

At this point, due to these inconsistencies, and budgetary constraints admitted to by KCLS, I have strong doubts that annexation will benefit the taxpayers of Renton. It looks to me like it will cost us money, restrict our options and lower the quality of library service.

Beth Asher

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