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Spokane Public Library asks for levy renewal for February 2024 ballot

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(The Center Square) – Coming out of the year strong with the completed construction of three new facilities and the renovation of four more, representatives of the Spokane Public Library system took their case before the Spokane City Council to ensure their success continues into the future.

Funded out of a 2018 voter-approved bond measure, those construction projects have allowed the library system to settle into “new functionality, new services, new staff, new customers, and new expectations.”

“There’s just a lot of change going on,” said Andrew Chance, executive director of the Spokane Public Library system Thursday night’s study session with the council. “About 30% of our staff is new.”

Many of the programs and services are new as well.

In 2023 to date, the Spokane Public Library system has held around 200 library-led events per month; had more than 25,000 event attendees, excluding non-library led events; and seen attendance, which expect to surpass 1.2 million visits in 2023, grow.

The libary booked 7,000 hours of meeting spaces in May alone.

The Spokane Library System is, Chance said, also continuing to expand its partnership with local schools to “enhance library service for students by expanding access throughout the city.”

“Some of these statistics are just beyond what we had even expected as far as participation from the community,” said Chance, noting that the library system has never surpassed one million visitors in a single calendar year.

The main purpose of the presentation to council was to advocate for a levy renewal. The current levy expires at the end of 2024.

Levy dollars account for roughly 20% of the library’s operating budget, with the bulk of the majority coming from the general fund.

“Our general fund allocation has been historically insufficient to support stable operations or growth,” said Nicole Edwards, finance director for Spokane Public Library.

That general fund contribution from Spokane has only grown at a rate of 2.1% since 2013, well below recent inflation rates.

Under current conditions, this means the library system expects to spend down reserves from $4.7 million in 2024 to $2 million in 2027.

Edwards then went on to propose a 3-year levy on the February 2024 ballot for Spokane voters.

The most recent 2017 levy ask of voters resulted in a 71% voter approval.

The new levy would be at a rate of 7 cents per $1,000, which is a renewal of the current rate set to expire in 2024.

“What we want to avoid is having to [ask the public] twice if there is an increase,” Chance said when asked if the library would be seeking an increased rate for this levy.

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