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The votes are in and Pierce County libraries win funding boost

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.

The Pierce County Library System’s board finally has a blueprint for its future.

With Monday’s latest tally and no ballots from the Nov. 6 vote left to count, library officials felt safe declaring victory.

This comes weeks after the election, when the system first saw its levy measure trail, then start to gain votes. At times, the approve/reject votes were separated by mere hundreds of votes.

The final tally: 106,844 (50.21 percent) votes to approve the levy vs. 105,933 (49.79 percent) rejecting it.

“We are incredibly grateful to voters for believing in their public library,” Pierce County Library Executive Director Georgia Lomax said in a statement. “This is a positive endorsement for the value the library system brings to our communities. We thank the voters for their investment.”

Voters in Pierce County and a handful of residents in a segment of King County included in the system through its Milton branch were asked to decide on whether to restore the levy rate to its full amount of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

For example, the owner of a $317,000 house (the average value in the service district) would pay $159 in taxes, up from $128.

The last restored levy for the system was in 2006. It was projected to shore up services for a half-dozen years, and the system said it stretched that money twice as long.

With the latest passage, “Library staff is committed to working each day to demonstrate and deliver value to every community member and to earn the public’s continued confidence and trust,” Lomax said.

The funding will maintain current services and online resources, staff, technology and more. Without the infusion, the system faced closing two or three branches plus cutting hours of operation at existing branches.

Those fears now are in the rear view and the restored levy will take effect next year.

The library vote wasn’t the only tight race.

Eatonville’s nonbinding advisory vote on whether to ban recreational marijuana businesses passed by 10 yes votes, while a six-year levy lid lift for Fire Protection District No. 17 (South Pierce Fire and Rescue) passed by fewer than 90 votes. East Pierce Fire and Rescue also narrowly won passage of its capital bond issue, which required a supermajority. The funding will go toward building five fire stations and upgrade emergency vehicles.

Pierce County’s vote was certified Tuesday. County results listed online showed voter turnout at 66.38 percent and 331,355 ballots counted.

The number of ballots cast was big in comparison with previous years.

For comparison, the last midterm election in 2014, turnout was 49.96 percent with 220,827 ballots cast. The 2010 midterm had a 66.47 percent turnout and 272,587 ballots cast, according to county auditor’s office numbers.

For the first time, the number of active registered voters in Pierce County rose above the half-million mark — 500,324 voters, according to Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson.

Three legislative races face a hand recount after certification:

For the open Senate seat in the 26th district (spanning Pierce, Kitsap counties), Democrat Emily Randall led by 104 votes as of Tuesday over Republican Marty McClendon.

In the 42nd District (Whatcom County), Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen led Democratic challenger Pinky Vargas by 46 votes.

Ericksen’s seatmate in the House, Republican Rep. Luanne Van Werven, led Democrat Justin Boneau by 80 votes.

Pierce County’s recount is expected to start next week, with certification of results set for Dec. 7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Debbie Cockrell has been with The News Tribune since 2009. She reports on business and development, local and regional issues.


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