Whitman County Libraries prepare for levy increase

Library needs more funding to meet community demands

YASMEEN WAFAI, Evergreen assistant editor

Whitman County Library is anticipating a vote that would restore its maintenance and operations levy rate to 50 cents, an approximate $6-per-year increase for taxpayers.

Director Kristie Kirkpatrick said the libraries need this levy restoration because their expenses have outweighed their costs. She said usage of library services as well as program attendance has gone up, and the amount of costs is rising.

“We are suffering a budget shortfall,” Kirkpatrick said.

The levy restoration would add about $90,000 to the annual budget, according to a fact sheet made by Kirkpatrick. Most library systems put $1 million toward one location, while the Whitman County Library has 14 locations that would be using this money, according to the fact sheet.

The vote would increase the levy to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

A local example of one location with a bigger budget than multiple locations would be the Neill Public Library in Pullman, which has a city-funded budget of $1.6 million, while the tax-funded budget for Whitman County’s 14 locations is $1.1 million, Kirkpatrick said via email.

“I think these numbers clearly demonstrate the struggle we face,” she said.

She said the levy will go to a vote in Whitman County and will affect all of the Whitman County libraries outside of the Neill Public Library. She explained that if the libraries were to get this money, it would go toward operations, materials, programs and technology.

“We wouldn’t ask for money if we didn’t need it,” Kirkpatrick said.

She said the levy is vital. The fact sheet listed cuts to staff, open hours, materials, online resources and public programs if the levy rate is not restored.

“People have no idea the reach of the library,” Kirkpatrick said. “Cutting back would be difficult and terrible.”

However, the library receives both financial and general support from the Friends of Whitman County Library, a private non-profit group that helps libraries in the county.

Friends of the Whitman County Library President Sue Hallett said the group plans to educate the community, send out mailings and talk to media outlets to promote the levy and get people to vote.

Hallett fully supports the passing of the levy and knows the impact libraries can have, both on individuals and the community. She said the increase is worth it, considering everything the library provides.

“The library does a lot for the community,” Hallett said, “and they’re asking for a tiny increase.”

Kirkpatrick said she hopes the community will continue to support the libraries and that the levy will be restored so the libraries can continue to provide services.

“We’ll do everything we can to get the word out for people and make ourselves available for questions and concerns,” she said.

The levy will be voted on in the Feb. 13 election.