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KRL Board approves modest levy increase, preliminary budget for 2014

Property owners in Kitsap County will pay just about $2.50 more next year for library services to support the Kitsap Regional Libraries.

That’s according to the preliminary budget for 2014 that was recently approved by the Kitsap Regional Library Board of Trustees.

According to the preliminary budget released by Jeff Brody, director of community relations for the library system in Kitsap County, the “typical” homeowner with a house assessed at $250,000 for property tax purposes, will pay $100 in 2014 to support the libraries. That would increase from $97.53 paid this year.

The actual tax rate will increase from 39 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to 40 cents.

Brody said that the library district is seeking its legally allowed increase of 1 percent over the 2013 levy.

In all, the proposed property tax levy of $10.3 million for 2014 is estimated to account for about 91 percent of the district’s total revenues, with most of the remaining revenue coming from grants and gifts ($573,000) and from fines and fees ($271,000).

With the budget of $11.3 million budget for 2014, the district doesn’t plan any cuts in hours or services, Brody said.

“But there will not be any funds for additional new programs, unless those funds are re-allocated from existing uses,” he said.

The need for the penny increase in property taxes is due mostly to a decrease in assessed valuation throughout Kitsap County and limited new construction in the county that would add to the property tax rolls, he said.

As far as the additional 1 percent, Brody said it will amount to about $100,000 and about $90,000 of that will be “eaten up” in health care premiums for employees.

“Even with shopping around for better deals and asking employees to contribute to their health care costs, we’re still looking at about a 5 percent increase in health care benefits,” he said. “Since 2011, when health care costs increased 33 percent, we’ve continued to be vigilant at doing what we can, including higher deductibles, to keep those costs down.”

The proposed budget does not include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for library employees. But Brody said the board is looking at adding a 1 percent COLA.

“We have not had a COLA for our employees since 2008,” he said. “And the board is exploring the costs of a 1 percent COLA and what that would mean to the overall budget.”

There are allocations for 2 percent raises for employees who reach steps based on years of service. And the budget calls for a decrease of one full-time employee in technical services, and the addition of a .37 FTE in public relations and a .12 FTE to the library foundation staff.

Brody said funding of library services has been tight since voters rejected a levy in 2010. That was when library Sunday hours were cut and since then, the library district has been looking at ways to best serve its patrons with limited funding.

“We’re ruthless in how we’re spending our money in order to provide the best service we can to our public.”

The board will adopt a final budget at its meeting Jan. 24, when it can review the closed books for 2013 and know what, if any, carryover there will be.

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