On 5Jun2019, I wrote about a high-level principle of private property rights violated by a proposal to tax citizens for library services. Today I flesh out some of the detail of that proposal.
Placed on the November Ballot will be a proposition that, if passed, will create a Lewis River Library District out of the following precincts: Caples, Woodage, Woodland Heights, and Lewis River 1, 2 and 3. Details of the filing can be found at http://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/index.aspx?NID=535 .
Numbers I use below were given to me by the proponents of the LRLD, and I took them as is, unquestioned.
Do the citizens in these precincts have access to a public library?
Yes.They must pay an annual fee of $115/family.
They get full access to the Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) for this fee.
Note that the annual fee amounts to less than $10/month.
What do people in the current Woodland Library District (WLD) pay for the library via their property tax?
Based on average property values, they pay $90/year per household.
The tax rate is governed by the FVRL rate of $.36/$1,000 of assessed property value.
That rate currently cannot go above $.50/$1,000 of APV.
Is there a demand for this new library district?
Depends on how you ask the question.The best answer comes from the usage data.
In the precincts named, currently just under 7% of eligible households purchase a library card.
In the WLD, 44% have cards, but only 1/3 of them use the cards, amounting to about 15% of the eligible public.
General funding for libraries has been declining for years.
CONCLUSION: it appears that in usage, there is far less than 50% demand. Demand may be as low as 15%.
Why did I oppose putting the proposition on the ballot?
A significant reason was given in the previous blog entry, posted on 5Jun2019.
The commissioners are charged with assessing, for the public, the value of legislative and financial aspects of governing acts.The applicable RCW makes this clear.
The public already has access to library services at an already low rate.
There is no material demand for library services. Why force others to pay for something they do not want?
All too often ballot measures are unclear and the question in this case easily can be conflated with the question, “Are libraries good.” I have toured the FVRL, and it is good; FVRL is good today without taking money from households who do not value the service enough to pay the current fee.
With the essentially ubiquitous internet, the function of the old library system has changed.
It functions as a community center.
It offers free access to the internet and computers to access the internet.
It has devices such as copiers and 3-D printers.
They lend movies, games, and projectors.
So, is a library a repository of recorded human understanding or a community center?
By now we should know that taxes are forever, yet the long-term implications as well as the aggregate impact are difficult to assess. Government will price people out of their homes, one tax at a time, one good idea a time. What answer would be given if the ballot measure asked: Today your property taxes are, say, at $11/$1,000 of APV; would you be willing to increase that rate to $11.36/$1,000 of APV for a non-essential service which you do not use.
Vote wisely and thoughtfully on this proposition.