Friday, June 11, 2010

Vote YES for libraries
On the August 17 primary ballot is a measure which will lift the lid of the current library levy. If the measure passes, libraries within the Fort Vancouver will be able to restore lost operating hours and purchase new books. In order to pass, the measure requires a 50% plus 1 voter approval.

Below is a Q & A provided by the Fort Vancouver Library District. Additional information on how to be involved in the campaign is available at

Q. Why are you asking property owners for more money?
A. FVRL, along with most other public agencies, is facing declining revenues and increasing costs for maintenance and operations. The decline is in part due to a severe reduction in construction, which in the past provided the district a cushion against tax limitation measures through taxes collected from timber sales and new construction.
Declining revenues are especially concerning for libraries. In hard times more people turn to public libraries to cut household costs such as book purchases, magazine subscriptions and Internet access. They also need libraries more than ever to sharpen marketable skills and search for employment. More people are using FVRL libraries: circulation increased 8 percent in 2009 and continues to rise.
We implemented severe spending reductions in 2009, but we also need to address long-term funding. The only operational funding tool available to libraries is the levy lid lift.
The library board voted in late 2009 to accept a decrease in base property tax funding for 2010 rather than invoking a clause in the state's tax limitation laws that would have allowed us to raise property taxes a small amount without voter approval. Putting a levy lid lift measure on the ballot lets voters have a say in whether the library will make further cuts to services, hours and book purchases.

Q. What would the tax increase pay for, and how much will you collect?

A. Raising the levy rate to the allowable $0.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation would provide approximately $3 million in 2011 to fund:
  • District-wide restoration of library hours that were lost in 2009
  • The purchase of additional books and other materials to keep the library's collection up-to-date and sufficient to meet growing demand. The district's book-purchasing power has been stagnant for about 10 years.
All FVRL libraries would benefit from the increased revenue, with restored hours and/or more books.
We expect that a levy increase at this level will cost the owner of a $250,000 house approximately $20 more per year.

Q. Will you be adding movie DVDs, music CDs and downloadable e-books?

A. Our focus for building up the collection will be on existing types of materials. We haven't added entertainment DVDs and music CDs in the past due to the high initial cost of acquiring a reasonable selection. A successful levy will allow us to consider new formats and types of materials, as well as fulfill unmet needs for current types of materials.

Q. What will happen if the measure fails?

A. Without additional maintenance and operations funding, we won't be able to restore library hours cut in 2009 or increase the book budget. We also won't be able to hire the staff required to open the larger new main library with the current six‐days‐a‐week schedule. The new building will be open only five days a week. Additional cuts in the future to hours and services across the district are very likely.

Q: Why has the library district picked this time to announce a new tax measure?

A. Library funding constraints are a long-term problem that reached a critical point in 2009. Over the past year, the library district has had to reduce its operational expenses to a level that impacts basic library access (hours) and services. The situation is not anticipated to improve in the foreseeable future. The district is now giving voters a chance to decide whether to restore library funding to a higher level.

Q. When did FVRL last go to the voters to ask for an operating tax increase?

A. 1993 - 17 years ago.

Q. What other solutions have you implemented to address reduced revenues?

A. FVRL substantially reduced its operating budget in 2009 -- including cutting 10 percent of staff positions and reducing hours at seven libraries -- in response to severe revenue declines.
The district's ability to purchase books and other items has diminished over the years due to rising costs that have exceeded revenue growth. For example: the number of items purchased for the collection in 2008 was less than the number purchased in almost any year in the past decade. This situation has made it difficult to keep pace with a growing population's increasing demand for library books.
The district has made more than a dozen other cuts or service reductions in the past few years in its efforts to work within available revenue.

Q. What makes you think you can win with a tax measure, given the bad state of the economy?

A. In a district-wide poll recently conducted by the political action committee Citizens for Better Libraries, 62 percent of voters indicated that they would vote 'yes' for a library levy lid lift, which requires 50 percent + 1 to pass. The survey results were made available to the library board of trustees as they considered whether to proceed with a funding measure. The success of the February 2010 school levies also provided a timely indicator that voters might be willing to invest in the future by supporting a library measure.

Q. Who gets to vote on the library measure?

A. All registered voters who live withih Fort Vancouver Regional Library District can vote on the August 17 library measure. The district encompasses all of Skamania and Klickitat counties, all of Clark county except the city of Camas, and the city of Woodland in Cowlitz County.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spotlight on Victoria Allen

Those who have been following all the hoopla about property assessments will be happy to know we have an excellent candidate for Assessor this election. Over the last 7 years, Victoria Allen has worked every job in the Assessor's Office except actually going out to assess property. She knows where operations need improvement, has ideas about how community relations can be improved, and is enthusiastic about educating county residents about the assessment process. She is shown in the photo answering questions at the County Nominating Convention, where she was formerly nominated as the Democratic Candidate in this race.

Victoria moved to the county with her husband and daughter in 2003 to take a job in the Klickitat County Assessor's Office, and to be closer to her parents in Kennewick. They live on 7 acres about 10 miles outside of Goldendale and enjoy the rural lifestyle. Besides learning every aspect of the Assessor's Office, she has volunteered on the levy committee for the Goldendale School District and on the youth soccer board. She also sings in her church choir and with the Community Cantata during the holiday season. Victoria can also be spotted at her daughter's sports events, band and math competitions.

If you are one of the lucky people who have heard Victoria speak about her potential candidacy in recent months, you know what we're talking about. Her years of experience interfacing with the public on assessment matters show in her calm ability to explain a sometimes complicated and baffling process. If not, look out for your opportunity to talk with Victoria during the upcoming election season.