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Pierce County Library System levy outcome too close to call

Vital services provided by the Pierce County Library System

This video shows the variety of resources offered by the Pierce County Library System. Voters had an opportunity to help maintain those services by supporting a proposition in the Nov. 6 election to restore the library levy rate to its full amount.
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This video shows the variety of resources offered by the Pierce County Library System. Voters had an opportunity to help maintain those services by supporting a proposition in the Nov. 6 election to restore the library levy rate to its full amount.

For library fans outside of Tacoma, whether or not your library stays open is still hanging in the balance.

With just 706 votes separating the Pierce County Library System’s levy lid lift, the outcome was too close to call Friday night.

The measure so far is being rejected, 87,279 to 86,573.

Mary Getchell, communications director for the library system, told The News Tribune on Friday evening: “We continue to be at Election Day 4 and counting, with too many votes uncounted.”

The system’s King County voters, served by the Milton library, were passing the measure.

The library system held events at its branches and in the community to educate people on why the levy rate needed to be restored. The main point: Operational costs are rising faster than revenue because of the growth in services and materials.

Passage would have restored the levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a $317,000 house, the average value in the library service district, would pay $159 in taxes, up from $128, should the measure pass.

In 2006 voters passed a restored levy that at the time was projected to maintain services for up to six years, which the system said it made last for twice as long.

Meanwhile, “the library’s service area population has grown by 16 percent to 602,000 people, and the number of people with library cards has grown by 63 percent to 323,000 people,” the library system said in a news release.

Hopes were high that the infusion of funds would give the system a chance to maintain and expand current operations and staffing for classes and events; computers, Wi-Fi and technology; and community spaces.

Without the restored funds, the library system faces cuts in services, including hours of operation, books, movies and other materials, classes and events. Two to three branches also might be closed.

The process of figuring out which libraries would close would start next year if the measure fails.

The next ballot count is Tuesday at 4 p.m.

For now the system has two versions of its budget to consider, one with a restored levy and one without.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell
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