Frequently Asked Questions
Why was capital replacement funding needed?
The 1988 bond will soon retire. To maintain a vibrant collection and infrastructure, and to effectively prepare for library use in the next decade, replacement funding was needed. As the region’s population has grown, the library has expanded facilities and services to meet the needs of the region’s diverse communities. Overall library use has increased 40% during the past decade. Facilities naturally age through heavy use, and maintenance costs continue to escalate.
What types of projects will the Capital Replacement Bond fund?
The proposed projects include:
• Replacing libraries that are outdated, too small or no longer located centrally in growing areas or are impractical to remodel to meet growing needs.
• Upkeep of facilities and basic repairs and improvements to support increased use, additional materials and new technologies.
• Expanding and upgrading facilities to add more community meeting space, more room for children’s areas and teen centers.
• New libraries in communities that do not have library service.
How was the Plan developed?
The King County Library System engaged in an extensive community involvement and outreach project in 2002-2003 to identify priority needs for each community it serves. A plan was developed to meet those needs during the next decade. We heard directly from more than 2,600 community members at public meetings held in every community the library system serves. Comments also were received via email, telephone and online surveys. We also took into account maintenance and upkeep needed at libraries.
Why do most projects have different start dates?
The time necessary to complete each project varies by library, depending on the type of library project, condition of the library and needs of the community. Each library is held in high importance. The designated start dates are based on factors such as how urgent the need is for each library, as well as issues and permits relating to construction. Communities with fairly new libraries will receive attention later in the plan. KCLS will assess the maintenance and upkeep needs for each library and will implement changes within a 5-10 year period. Our first priority is to ensure that appropriate and efficient structural modifications are undertaken in order to keep libraries a safe and pleasant place for patrons.
Will these improvements take care of future needs?
The current planning process to maintain and expand library facilities is expected to meet the needs of the King County Library System and its communities through the next decade. While library usage continues to escalate, KCLS anticipates the proposed projects will meet the needs of patrons until at least 2016. The maintenance and upkeep of libraries also will be taken care of for the next 10 years.
Didn't you just build a new Seattle Public Library?
The new downtown library is not part of the King County Library System. KCLS and Seattle Public Library are two separate entities. KCLS is funded through property tax revenues, and when needed, capital improvement bonds. Seattle Public Library is a general revenue department that is part of the City of Seattle and operates as a completely separate district from KCLS. The new downtown Seattle Public library cost Seattle taxpayers approximately $165 million to build—the same amount that will cover the cost of maintenance, upkeep and expansion of our 43 community libraries.
During the election you promised that the owner of a $300,000 house would not pay more than $25 for the 2004 bond. How are you going to do that?
When issued, the new bonds will be structured to hold the costs at or below the target cost of 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The bonds will be issued in stages, rather than all at once, and the costs to taxpayers will be managed to the target cost. The chart shows the expected costs during the life of the bonds. (See chart below.)
When will the bonds be issued?
The bonds will be issued in stages. Federal laws require that the money raised be used within a certain timeframe after issuance. KCLS will not issue all of the bonds at once since all projects can’t be started at the same time. This also reinforces KCLS’ promise to taxpayers to keep the annual cost below $25 for the owner of a $300,000 home. The first set of bonds was issued in July 2005 ($63.5 million out of the $172 million total). It is anticipated that the next set of bonds will not be issued for several years.
How much is the levy for the bonds in 2006?
The current levy amount for the 2004 bonds is 3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The current levy amount for the 1988 bonds is 4.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
- Are taxpayers still paying for the 1988 bonds?
Yes, the 1988 bonds will mature in 2011 at which time payment will be complete. As the chart in Question 1 (above) shows, the costs for the 1988 bonds are declining each year. The new 2004 bonds will be structured so that costs increase gradually, taking into account the remaining life of the 1988 bonds. The total costs will be held to the target rate of eight cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
What about the Capital Facilities Areas in Issaquah and Redmond?
In 1998, voters in Redmond and Issaquah approved the sale of bonds for the purpose of building a new library in each city. The cost of the Redmond CFA bonds in 2004 was 6 cents per $1,000 of property value. The bonds mature in 2018. The cost of the Issaquah CFA bonds in 2004 was 10.9 cents per $1,000. These bonds mature in 2019. For taxpayers who live in these areas, the 2004 bonds will be added to what they are currently paying for the CFA bonds.
Who exactly is paying for the 1988 bonds and the Capital Facilities Area bonds?
Taxpayers who owned property within the King County Library District at that time are paying for the 1988 bonds. Those taxpayers whose property is within the defined Capital Facility Area are paying for the Capital Facilities Area bonds. A taxpayer can look at their property tax bill to identify which levy code district their property is within. With a levy code, either the King County Assessor’s Office (206.296.7300), or the King County Library System (firstname.lastname@example.org), can identify which bonds are being paid for.
How are libraries funded?
The King County Library System is primarily funded by property tax revenue. General funding for the Library District is provided through an annual levy rate not to exceed 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This operating levy funding pays for general operations and maintenance of the library system, including staff salaries and operating expenses. Due to the passage of I-747, the revenues the library district receives from the operating levy are limited to growth of 1% per year, which results in reducing the rate per $1,000 of value below 50 cents. In 2005, the operating levy for the King County Library System was 48 cents.
What is the difference between operating levies and capital bonds?
The operating budget covers day-to-day costs such as salaries, utilities, books and supplies. The annual operating levy provides this funding. While the operating levy provides for regular operation of the library system, it doesn’t provide funding for larger one-time capital projects such as construction to expand and build new facilities. As a result, the only way to address the capital needs of the library system is to issue bonds, such as the capital replacement bonds that received approval in 2004 from KCLS voters. The money raised through the bonds can only be used for the capital purposes for which they are intended.
Are there safeguards in place for keeping projects on time and on budget?
The King County Library System has a history of delivering capital improvements on time and on budget. Twice, in 1966 and in 1988, voters approved bond issues for new materials and construction of new libraries. Projects were completed on time and on budget.
What accountability measures are in place to make sure KCLS will spend this money wisely?
KCLS prepares annual budgets that are reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees. Actual expenditures must be approved by an authorized staff member and receive final approval by the Board of Trustees. All board meetings are open to the public and the library holds annual public hearings on its budget. By law, funds raised by a bond issue may only be spent in the categories for which they were approved. Finally, all KCLS financial statements are audited on an annual basis by the Washington State Auditor's Office.
Why is parking so critical at some libraries?
Use of libraries has increased dramatically in recent years and some library parking lots are unable to accommodate the increased demand. At several libraries, patrons often have to leave simply because they are unable to find a parking spot.
What building repairs and maintenance is needed?
Interior and exterior maintenance is needed in libraries to keep the highly used buildings in good shape. Some of the basic building repairs and maintenance include replacing carpeting, lighting, furniture and painting.
Is there a need for more computers and space for computers?
Computers have become a tremendous resource of information as well as a method of communication. People of all ages use them for a variety of purposes: sending email to family, online bill paying and doing research for homework. Demand for computers is at an all time high. Patrons now have to sign-up for computer use and are restricted to a limited amount of time each day. Additional computers and space are needed to help accommodate the demand.
Why relocate a library when we already have a library?
Many of the libraries that are being proposed for relocation are outdated facilities that are too small, not conveniently located, or impractical to remodel adequately.
Why do we need new libraries when people can just go to other libraries?
New libraries are being proposed in areas where there is a high demand for service and where other libraries are not easily accessible. By building a new library directly in a region of need, people will have easy access to a library, reducing crowding in other neighboring libraries. The proposed plan also addresses an inequity in library service between South King County and North/East King County.
I have a relatively new library. Why is my library included in the Plan?
Libraries that are relatively new have proposed improvement dates of 2010 or later. Even our relatively new libraries, after several years of high use and normal wear and tear, will need upkeep.
Will open hours be extended?
The capital improvement plan does not cover operational expenses such as staffing and the additional costs to cover extended hours of operation.
How will libraries operate during construction?
This will vary according to specific construction projects, but as always, the Library System finds alternative ways to provide library service when construction is under way. With 43 community libraries, frequenting a nearby library is an option.