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.