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Ballots contain taxing ideas

Property owners on both sides of the White River are being asked to pony up additional money to support very specific services.

Those on the south side, in Pierce County, will make their decision first. Tuesday, voters will decide the fate of a “levy reauthorization” request made by trustees of the Pierce County Library System.

In King County, the council last week decided to place a measure on November's general election ballot that would enhance the Metro bus system.

Additional money would bring

more services, longer library hours

Passage of Tuesday's library proposal would pay immediate dividends close to home, as the Buckley library would be open an additional 10 hours per week.

Currently, the Buckley branch - like 10 others in the 17-library system - is not open Mondays. If Tuesday's ballot measure gets the OK, the Buckley facility's doors would be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Additionally, the library would stay open a half-hour later (until 6 p.m.) on Thursday and Friday. Hours would stay the same Tuesday and Wednesday and the library would continue to be closed Sundays.

Throughout the system, passage would mean additional services for children and teenagers, according to Mary Getchell, information officer for the district. Additionally, library branches would receive additional computer stations with Internet access, she said.

Currently, taxpayers pay 40 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property for library services. Tuesday, voters will face a simple decision: pay more and get more in the way of services, or let the rate slip and face potential cuts in services.

By state law, library districts may collect up to 50 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property. Collection rates were near that in 2002, when the district was assessing 48 cents per $1,000. The rate has continued to drop to the present 40 cents and would continue to decline; if Tuesday's request is denied, Getchell said, the district will collect 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2007.

That, she said, would force library trustees to slice $500,000 from next year's budget.

Here's how the math works for the owner of property valued at $300,000.

€ this year, at the 40 cent rate, the total assessment for libraries is $120.

€ next year, if the levy lid is approved, the rate would jump to $144.

€ next year, if Tuesday's measure is defeated, the rate would decrease to $114.

Those numbers are skewed by the fact that property assessments will be climbing. Getchell said the average home in the library's service area is valued at $225 this year; next year, the average is expected to be $244.

Tuesday's ballot measure requires a simple majority for passage.

King County measure aims to

improve urban bus systems

By an 8-1 vote, the King County Council last week authorized a ballot proposal that would raise the sales and use tax throughout King County by one-tenth of 1 percent. If passed, it would improve bus service on the county's busiest and most congested roads and highways.

Supports say the tax hike would amount to about $25 annually for an average family.

The only council member opposing the plan was Reagan Dunn, who represents a large slice of King County stretching from Enumclaw nearly to Bellevue and Issaquah on the north.

The proposal being hailed as “Transit Now” was largely spearheaded by County Councilmember Julia Patterson, chair of the council's Transportation Committee. The new tax money, she said, would “create more suburban service, increase the frequency of buses on the most popular routes and eventually connect suburban and urban riders with the light rail system.”

Supporters claim November's measure, if passed, would expand King County Metro bus service by more than 20 percent. It would allow Metro to keep pace with regional growth and use the final one-tenth of one percent sales tax authorized by the state legislature after Initiative 695 cut transit funding statewide.

Proposed improvements to the Metro bus system are primarily in the heavily-populated parts of the county. For example, the additional tax money would create five new “RapidRide” corridors. The plan also calls for a network of all-day, 15-minute service routes connecting most business and residential centers within the central Eastside area. The plan would also provide new commuter and all-day service in rapidly growing areas currently underserved, such as Sammamish, Issaquah, Maple Valley and Covington.

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