Time running out for Sultan library

SULTAN — The city will quit paying for Sultan’s library in 2009 to save money. But city leaders hope that residents will keep the library doors open by agreeing to a property tax increase.

Voters in the city would likely be asked in February 2008 whether to annex the library into the Sno-Isle Regional Library System. If approved, the proposal would change the way the library is operated. The city now pays more than $90,000 annually to the library system to run the library. The city has a contract to continue to do so through 2008.

If the annexation passes, city residents will pay additional property taxes directly for the district to operate the library, starting in 2009. That will save the city money.

“It will benefit the city financially and benefit the library system because they get full control,” Mayor Ben Tolson said Friday.

The City Council on Thursday decided to give the library district a notice to terminate the current contract at the end of 2008, city administrator Deborah Knight said. The library district will decide whether to put the proposed annexation on the ballot in February 2008, she said.

The annexation wouldn’t change the library service in Sultan, said Mary Kelly, community relations manager of Sno-Isle Libraries.

“It ensures a long-term stability of the library,” Kelly said.

If voters reject the proposal and the city stops paying for the library, the library will shut down, Kelly said.

The library district runs 21 libraries in Snohomish and Island counties, Kelly said. People in the district now pay 35 cents per $1,000 assessed value of their properties annually for the district.

It’s not unusual that a city lets its library get annexed into the library district, Kelly said. Edmonds did so in 2001, Mill Creek in 2004, she said.

The proposed annexation is among several measures that Sultan have proposed to deal with its ongoing financial problems.

The city’s budget is expected to fall about $450,000 short this year. That’s more than 20 percent of the $2.2 million general fund.

Starting next month, only four police officers and the interim police chief are expected to patrol the city. That will be down from current six officers. The city plans to promote one of the officers to become the interim police chief. One of the officers is now on a medical leave, Knight said.

The city with a population of about 4,500 people has stopped maintaining city parks to save money. It plans to make some of its employees work shorter hours and take other measures to deal with the projected budget shortfall, Knight said.

The city also created a citizen advisory commission on Thursday. The 11-member commission aims to come up with long-term solutions for the city’s financial problems, Knight said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 and ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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