Budget & Funding
Every year, the Sno-Isle Libraries Board of Trustees adopts a balanced budget for the 23 community libraries, online services, Library on Wheels and a service center to meet the needs of more than 750,000 residents in the library district across Snohomish and Island counties.
The budget authorizes spending for library operations and maintenance, including library staffing, materials, equipment, professional services, infrastructure, training and insurance based upon the forecast of revenues.
Every year, the State Auditor's Office conducts financial and accountability audits of Sno-Isle Libraries. Clean audit reports have been received for the past 32 years. State audits of Sno-Isle Libraries financial practices are available at sao.wa.gov and search for "Sno-Isle Regional Library."
Sno-Isle Libraries receives about 98 percent of its funding for daily operations and maintenance from the general library levy.
The levy affects all properties within the library district in Snohomish and Island counties. The cities of Everett, Bothell and Woodway are not part of the library district.
The library operations levy is collected by county treasurers in Snohomish and Island counties and funds are transferred to Sno-Isle Libraries.
The remaining 2 percent of library funding comes from a variety of sources, such as:
- Reassessed value of property where new construction has occurred
- Timber sales tax
- Leasehold excise tax
- Contract fees
- Donations and grants
- Investment interest
The voter-approved levy sets both a levy rate and the amount of money that rate raises on the assessed value of properties within the library district. Assessed property value is determined by the assessor's offices in Snohomish and Island counties and on a total county-wide level, not by a specific community or individual property values.
Property owners in unincorporated areas of the library district see a line item on their annual property tax statement reflecting the Sno-Isle Libraries levy. Property owners within cities in the library district may also have a line item on their annual property tax statement for Sno-Isle Libraries service. The Snohomish County Assessor's Office and the Island County Assessor's Office have information online to review property taxes in general and for specific properties.
According to state law, the library levy rate cannot be more than 50 cents ($0.50) for each $1,000 of assessed property value. And, the amount of money raised by the levy is capped at 1 percent a year, except in years when voters approve a change. The assessed value of new construction is also added to this funding base in accordance with the law.
To stay within those limits, the levy rate goes up or down as property values change. Generally, when property values increase for properties within the library district, the general library levy rate goes down. When property values decrease, the levy rate can increase, but not above the legal limit of 50 cents ($0.50) for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
While property-tax funding is relatively stable, it does not keep pace with rising costs of doing business due to the 1 percent cap on levy revenue. This means that a rise in property values does not reflect an equal rise in library-district funding.
To keep up with inflation, increasing population and other factors, voters are periodically asked to consider an increase in the library levy rate. A levy-rate increase request must be approved by a simple majority of voters within the library district in Snohomish and Island counties to take effect. If approved, the levy increase is implemented the following year. This results in funding which sustains the level of library services provided. If voters reject a levy, the previous levy would continue at the previously approved rate and Sno-Isle Libraries would make corresponding reductions in service. The most recent voter-approved levy was in 2018. The previous levy to 2018 was approved by voters in 2009.
Library Capital funding
Funds from the library operations levy are not intended for construction of new library buildings or enlarging and making major renovations to existing library buildings. These types of projects are called library capital projects.
New or substantially renovated libraries are made possible through two separate ballot measures submitted to voters for approval: a library capital facility area and a library bond measure.
The first ballot measure asks voters to consider establishing a library capital facility area (LCFA). An LCFA is a special taxing district defined by specific geographic boundaries set by the library district.
All voters within a potential LCFA are asked whether they are willing to have an LCFA formed within which special taxes may be assessed for the purpose of a library capital project.
Approval of a ballot measure for the creation of a library capital facility area requires a simple majority vote.
The second ballot measure asks all voters within the potential LCFA whether they are willing to authorize the collection of funds for a library capital facility bond project. These funds would be used to cover costs associated with a library capital facility, including land (if needed), buildings, site improvements, equipment, furnishings, collections, financing, design, construction, equipping, remodeling and other necessary costs related to acquiring and opening the doors of the facility.
According to state law, voter-approved bond levy funds from within an LCFA are earmarked for specific projects and cannot be used for ongoing library operations and maintenance purposes.
Approval of a library capital facility bond ballot measure requires meeting two thresholds for approval:
- First, the ballot measure must be voted on by at least 40 percent of the total number of voters within the library capital facilities area who cast a ballot in the preceding general election in order for the bond election to be validated.
- Second, at least 60 percent of voters casting a ballot on the bond measure must vote in favor.
If the ballot measure receives less than 60 percent voter approval or fails to be validated by having at least 40 percent of voters participating in the vote, the measure automatically fails.
If all thresholds are met and approval is granted by voters on both propositions, an LCFA is established and library capital facility bond levy funds will be collected to fund the capital project. Funds collected for a voter-approved library capital facility bond can only be used to finance the construction, acquisition, major maintenance, renovation or remodel of the specified library capital facility identified in the ballot question.
Once any debt from financing a library capital facility is paid off with the funds collected within the LCFA, the bond levy ceases to be collected from property owners and the LCFA is dissolved.