Renton Public Library Annexation


I would have never guessed when we started the process that the election would be separated by only 46 votes. By now we should know the winner, but we don’t. Over here at the Vote No/Save Renton Library campaign we can’t help but think that this small margin of votes can be linked back to the bogus information that the City of Renton made available to voters.

So, this process has turned from saving our beloved institution and it’s staff to holding the City of Renton accountable for their mistakes and not letting them take advantage of voters. Maybe this is just a bad time to be in government but people are fed up with the actions of our elected officials and the bureaucrats that are working behind the scenes. The Federal Government has them and so does Renton.

The City of Renton mailed an informational flyer in the December 2009 utility bill that was supposed to be “factual” not to sway voters one way or the other just mearly there to provide facts. Well, guess what we looked into the facts, because that is what we have done from the beginning of this campaign, and we found that they were wrong. Members of our group demanded that the City offer a retraction, which they did but it was too late. Ballots had been mailed and votes had already been cast. Not only that but the City did not issue a retraction in the next utility bill they just posted a tiny link on their website that made note of their mistake.

The library is one part of this fight. In fact if the library and it’s staff were not so great the voters may not be this worked up but the library is great, the staff is amazing and it is a part of Renton and we will fight to keep it where it belongs. Then come re-election year the politicians can fight for their seats.

If you know anyone that voted “yes” based on the bogus information put out by the City of Renton, who then wanted to change their vote once a retraction was made we want to hear from you. Please contact us through a comment or through the contact form, we really believe there are 50 people out there who wish they could take back there vote we just need to find them.

Please use the form below to contact us  – thanks

The anticipation is killing me. Looks like we will not know the results till tomorrow, maybe? Randy Corman said it may end up being a recount but I wondered if in a local election like this if that is going to happen and if it does happen who pays for it.

Everyone who voted should track their ballot to make sure that their vote has been counted, especially those who dropped their ballot in the box that was left on Grady Way. You can check the status of your ballot here.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that those last votes are on our side.

In the glossy trifold mailer that some Renton voters received there is some information that paints a rather doomsday situation for the Renton Public Library should the voters decide to remain independent. Well, here at the Vote No and Save Renton Library campaign we are committed to providing all of the information to voters so they can make informed decisions. Let’s look at some of the scare tactics this trifold mailer has used….

“If we fail to annex to KCLS, the city will be forced to cut Library services, reduce branch and staff hours, and face the possibility of facility closures and staff reduction.” That sounds pretty dire but let’s look at what is really going to happen effective March 2010 should the Renton Public Library remain independent. The following information is from Bette Anderson Library Director.

If voters decide to keep the Renton Public Library independent there will  be some budget cuts for the year 2010, the total amount cut out of the budget will be around $220,000 for the year.

Yes, there will be cuts to library hours but there is nothing in the information that Bette gave me that states either facility will have to close. Branch hours for the Main Branch would be reduced by 10 hours a week and the Highlands Branch would be reduced by 8 hours per week. Please keep in mind that these reductions in open hours are temporary.

“If Prop 1 fails staff will be cut effective March 1st”. This is another very misleading statement from the pro-annexation campaign. No full-time staff members will be losing their jobs. Six part-time employees will be eliminated – 1 librarian intern, 1 clerk and 4 pages. There will be reduced hours for 4 part-time positions and funding for substitutes and vacation relief will be cut.

Other cuts for the year include a reduction in the budget for library materials. This budget will be cut by 30% and regional courier service will be eliminated. This means that the library will have less money to order additional high-demand items which could lead to longer wait times or more referrals to other libraries. The cut in courier service means changes to the Interlibrary Loan process, some items may not be available since some libraries may not ship items through the mail. There has been a complete loss of funding for staff travel and training and a cut of 75% for paid performers for children’s programs.

Again all of these changes are temporary. During these tough economic times we are seeing reductions in services across the board and the library is no different. We realize that these budget reductions are an inconvenience and once the election results have been verified we can start working on a plan to get the library funding to the level it needs to be. Reinstating Friends of the Library, pending approval by Bette Anderson, is just the beginning of that process for the community.

Let’s not forget that KCLS has its own Prop 1 out there right now and if they do not get the additional funding from voters they have said that they will be forced to make similar budget cuts, “In 2009, KCLS cut $1.9 million out of the operating budget for materials (books, magazines, DVDs, books on tape, etc.), technology, administration and facility maintenance. In addition, KCLS sought private funding to support a number of programs and services. KCLS now needs to ask voters to restore the library levy rate for one year to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value, to be collected in 2011. The restored revenue will enable KCLS to preserve the current level of library service, programs and resources at all 44 libraries, and maintain outreach services to community centers, low-income daycare facilities, and to the elderly and homebound.” From the KCLS website.

You see noone is immune to the current economic situation so don’t give up on the Renton Public Library – Vote No on Prop 1!

After I went back and read the KCLS fact sheet again I saw that they said “there is a lot of misinformation being propagated among opponents of joining KCLS.” It took a few minutes but it really started to bug me because throughout this whole campaign we have tried to bring the voters the facts and I think we have done a good job of it. So, with that being said I will comment on a few more of the “facts” that Renton For KCLS Now has on their webpage – one of which was corrected today.

MYTH: KCLS will take over ownership of the existing Main Branch over the Cedar River and the Highlands branch Library buildings.

The “Vote No” campaign has never stated that the current library facilities would be owned by KCLS. We have continuously pointed out the fact that when new library facilities are built the taxpayers of Renton will pay for these buildings and then the City will turn ownership of these buildings over to KCLS. KCLS does not deny that the City will have to pay for these new buildings or the fact that they will be the owners of buildings they did not have to pay for.

MYTH: Current Renton Library staff would lose their jobs.

We have never stated that Renton Library Staff would lose their jobs after annexation. We have wondered about the future of positions that would be redudant with current KCLS staff but there is so much uncertainity in that we have not brought it up.  We have however stated how things will change for Renton library staff. Here are a few examples

  • A loss of benefits for spouses and dependent children
  • A loss of seniority – a lot of Renton Library Staff have worked for the library over 10 years, some over 20 years
  • A loss of contribution to deferred retirement plan
  • Loss of sick and vacation time
  • Renton Library Staff would be “clustered”

It seems unfortunate that an organization with an operating budget of over $90M can not provide a compensation package that is comparable to the one our own City can  to our library staff that has served our community so well.

I just want to say this here, in tough economic times I am sure the library staff, like every other employed person out there, is grateful that they have a job. But it is tough to hear that the City of Renton cares about their employees while favoring annexation.

One more for now…

MYTH: If Renton Libraries stay independent the quality of our facilities and services will remain, at minimum, equal to the current levels.

Renton For KCLS Now is great, they follow this statement with “Fact: If nothing is done to change the current funding model”, the thing to note here is “if nothing is done”. Well, whether we annex to KCLS or remain independent in the future something will be done to change the current funding model and we will make sure of that.

Stay tuned there is more to come in the KCLS “Fact” series.

After Monday’s City Council meeting where the Vote Knower’s made an appearance, King Parker City Council President, decided that a Pro and Con discussion about library annexation was needed at the next City Council Meeting. Each side will be given 10 minutes to present their side and then a 5 minute rebuttal period will follow.

If you would like to say something in support of the library you can. There is an audience comment portion of the meeting. All you have to do is sign-up prior to the meeting. Audience comments are limited to 5 minutes.

Here is your chance to show your support for our cause, I want the seats at the next Council Meeting filled with people who support our local Renton Public Library. The meeting will be held on Monday, January 11th at 7pm. Tell everyone you know about this meeting, let’s show the City Council that we are not going to let our library go without a fight.

Thanks so much for your support in this matter and if you want to get involved just contact us. You can use the form below. If you can not make the meeting, you can show your support by voting  No on Prop 1

A discussion about taxes is usually good for two things – causing utter confusion or curing insomnia and that is why this post is so hard to write. Hopefully, with the help of my cohorts this post will show the REAL cost that Renton residents will pay to annex to KCLS.   

What Renton Residents Currently Pay for Library Service

Currently, Renton residents pay $0.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of their homes in equivalent property tax to fund the Renton Public Library. This means that for a home valued at $300,000, $78 is paid in taxes for library operations. As the City of Renton, Library Staff and the Master Plan study have noted this current rate of funding is not enough to keep up with population growth and demand for library services, so an increase in taxes is needed.

What Annexed Areas Pay for KCLS Service

96% of KCLS’s operating budget is funded by a property tax levy. The current rate in KCLS areas is $0.36 per $1,000 of assessed value of a home. Because of recent decreases in assessed values of property this figure will increase to $0.42 in 2010. This means that owners of a $300,000 home pay $126 to fund KCLS operations.

What the Master Plan Study Suggested

The Master Plan Study determined that new facilities and various upgrades are needed to bring the Renton Public Library and the Highlands Branch up-to-date with technology and to keep up with service levels. To get the library funding at the level that is needed to make improvements tax payers would have to pay about $0.22 more per $1,000 on the assessed value of their home, this is in addition to the $0.26 they are already paying bringing the total to $0.48 per $1,000 AV. The Master Plan Study says that tax payers would need to pay an additional $0.17 per $1,000 AV to cover the cost of building a new library. So, with all of the improvements and getting the funding up-to-date Renton Residents would be paying $195 a year for a $300,000 home for library services ($0.65 x 300 = $195).

The real cost of joining KCLS

On page 9 (or here on the PDF) of the City of Renton’s Potential Annexation to the King County Library System FAQ Booklet there is a nice table that breaks down the cost, per household, of joining KCLS versus remaining independent. You can see under the “Remain Independent” column that the additional taxes needed to make improvements to the current library and build a new building have been accounted for, bringing the annual cost of library funding for a house valued at $300,000 to $195.

Under the “Annex to KCLS” column the brochure lists the $0.42 operations levy KCLS already collects as well as $0.17 needed for a new building for Renton, bringing the total annual cost of library funding for a house valued at $300,000 to $177. That means, according to the City of Renton’s booklet, that voters would actually save $22/year ($195-177=$22) if they decide to annex to KCLS.  BUT taxes are stubborn and have a tendency to stick around even when they are no longer needed.  (Just ask any City that has voted to raise sales tax to build a sports stadium only to have the sales tax remain at the raised rate once the stadium was built.)  It is imperative to note that the $0.26 tax rate that is currently being paid to the city to fund the library will not be going away, it will simply be put to use to pay for something else. This means that the real cost of KCLS to Renton tax payers is going to be $255 a year ($177+78=$255).

But Wait, There’s More

This February when Renton residents are voting on whether or not to annex to KCLS, those King County Residents already in the KCLS service area will be voting on Proposition 1. KCLS claims that because of increased demand and decline in revenue they must increase property taxes for 2011 to make up for a $1.2 million dollar budget shortfall. If Proposition 1 passes an additional $0.08 will be added to each $1,000 in AV, it would add an additional $24 on top of the $255 that was just mentioned. That means a Renton resident with a $300,000 AV home can annex to KCLS for the bargain price of $279 a year. Or we can pay $195 a year to keep the Renton Public Library local, keep our tax money local and keep control of our Public Library.

We know that KCLS is able to provide a lot of bells and whistles that Renton Library cannot, such as free printing, and tons of research databases, and a larger overall collection that’s great for filling hold requests, etc. But what Renton Library provides is a community service with familiar staff members who are able to directly address patrons’ requests and needs. With the current reciprocal borrowing agreement, King County residents, including Renton residents, can have both a Renton Library card AND a King County card. This way, they can have the best of BOTH worlds, a community library with a small-town feel, and access to the nearest KCLS branch for a larger collection of items and services. Right now, Renton citizens have CHOICES! Annexation eliminates that choice.

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