The 2018 Banks Public Library book sale. Photo: Chas Hundley

Washington County Cooperative Library Services placed a new levy on the May 19 ballot that would renew the five-year property tax levy currently providing 40 percent of library system funding the library system, which is set to expire in July 2021.

If passed, Measure 34-297 would retain the current property-tax rate associated with the existing levy at a fixed rate of 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value through July 2026.

In other words, homeowners with an assessed value (not market value) of $300,000 would pay $66 annually, or $5.50 each month.

The measure would maintain current resources that Washington County libraries provide, and continue providing funds for purchasing new books and e-resources, maintaining current hours for libraries across the county, operating central support services and transfers between libraries, hosting reading programs for children, and offering career resources.

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If the measure does not pass, Washington County libraries will see a 40 percent reduction in public funding, which currently comes from the existing property tax levy passed in 2016, and would begin cutting back services, resources, and possibly librarian jobs. 

Since 1976, a partnership between the county, nine cities, and three nonprofit organizations, collectively known as Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS), has been the primary source of funding for the county’s 16 public libraries. 

WCCLS’ central services and support link together community and city libraries into one system, creating broad access to all library materials for Washington County residents. 

Brantley Dettmer, board president of the Westside Economic Alliance (WEA), argued in favor of the levy in an editorial appearing in the Business Tribune, which is published by the Pamplin Media Group, owners of the Portland Tribune and Forest Grove News-Times.

In that piece, Dettmer argued that libraries are an invaluable community asset. 

“The WEA Board of Directors is endorsing this levy to support a resource that is evolving to meet our growing region's needs and will be crucial to job seekers as we arise out of the current (COVID-19) crisis,” Dettmer wrote.

For more information about Measure 34-297 visit the WCCLS website. 

To apply for a library card, which provides patrons with online access to many library materials, services, and resources, visit the WCCLS website at wccls.org/online-card