A new Seattle library levy is easily heading toward approval, scoring 73% of the vote in returns Tuesday.
“It shows people really believe we have to center equity and bring community together,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said by phone. “It’s pretty remarkable — it’s hard to find many topics over 70% of Seattle agrees on.”
Proposed by Durkan and advanced by the City Council, the seven-year, $219 million measure would authorize additional property taxes to support the Seattle Public Library (SPL) system, replacing a seven-year, $123 million library levy set to expire at the end of 2019.
The new levy would collect about 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2020, or about $85 for a $700,000 home.
Most of the money — $167 million — would be used to maintain services already being provided, with costs driven up by inflation.
The rest of the money would be used to do more. The levy would allow the Delridge, Green Lake, NewHolly and Wallingford branches to open on Fridays, extend hours at the High Point, International District/Chinatown and South Park branches and keep all 27 neighborhood branches open longer at night.
It would also pay for seismic renovations at the Columbia City, Green Lake and University branches, more “play and learn” programs for children, additional social workers for homeless patrons and more Wi-Fi hot spots.
SPL would eliminate fines for overdue items. Library systems across the country have scrapped overdue fines in recent years, based on the idea that fines can stop people from using libraries — particularly poor people. SPL patrons in less-wealthy neighborhoods owe more, on average.
A pro-levy campaign raised about $350,000 and spent mostly on advertisements and mailers. The measure was endorsed by Democratic Party groups, The Seattle Times, The Stranger and the local League of Women Voters.
In an opposition statement, former King County Auditor Lloyd Hara and others said SPL’s operational needs should be addressed with revenue already available and levy dollars should be reserved for capital projects.
Jonna Ward, CEO of the Seattle Public Library Foundation, said the campaign supporting the levy expected early voters to be the city’s most tax-averse, but, “this is just a reflection of how much Seattle cares about its library.”