ELECTION 2019: Mayor unveils Seattle Public Library replacement-levy plan

checkbox.jpgThe seven-year maintenance and operations levy for the Seattle Public Library system is expiring – it was passed in August 2012. Today Mayor Durkan announced the plan for a replacement levy to go to voters this August. Here’s the official news release. Toplines, from the one-sheet:

Renewing the Library Levy while maintaining only current services would cost $167.4M. Under Mayor Durkan’s plan, making additional investments in equity and opportunity like expanding hours and eliminating fines would cost the average homeowner an additional $1.58 per month, for a total of approximately $7 per month. With the critical new investments, the total Levy cost would be $213.3M.

The 2012 levy totaled $123 million. More on two of the “new investments”: Three area libraries would be among those with increased hours – Delridge, High Point, South Park. The levy also would spend a little over $1 million a year to end the practice of overdue fines. Next step for the levy proposal: It goes to the SPL Board next week, and then to the City Council. That part of the process will determine when it goes to voters, the mayor’s office tells us.

47 Replies to "ELECTION 2019: Mayor unveils Seattle Public Library replacement-levy plan"

  • MJ March 13, 2019 (5:40 pm)

    Why eliminate fines?  This is mechanism to get people to return items promptly so others can then check the item out!

  • skeeter March 13, 2019 (6:18 pm)

    Ummmm.  Keep the fines, please.  Even if they aren’t effective, at least they eventually block an account.  It’s frustrating to wait and wait for a library item that is overdue and not being returned.  Some people rely on the library to provide music/books/movies and it’s unfair to allow people to keep materials long beyond the due date with no consequences.

  • zephyr March 13, 2019 (6:30 pm)

    I think removing fines is wrong-headed. Fines encourage people to get their books, dvds, etc. in on time. What’s to keep someone from ever returning their checked out items? Why should people who don’t return library materials be allowed to continue using the service?
    What happens when books go beyond their check out date? I don’t understand this at all. Unbelievable.

  • WestSideVoter March 13, 2019 (6:50 pm)

    Email the mayor. This is the worst idea ever.  Not paying enough for your house or rent. Let’s make it EVEN MORE !! No more tax increases.  People can afford late fees or can’t get books. It’s called being Responsible.  WEST Side Voter.

  • Blbl March 13, 2019 (7:40 pm)

    The gall!! This is BS!  Why is it a problem that fines are a barrier to resources?  If you don’t return them on time, you should be barred from the resources.   

  • flimflam March 13, 2019 (7:53 pm)

    so late fines are punishing low income people unfairly? this is ludicrous – just return your media on time and everything will be ok…really don’t get it.so odd that now parking tickets, moving violations, now library fees are considered a hardship when it is completely within your power to handle these things properly.

  • Tiredd March 13, 2019 (7:55 pm)

    another day, yet another levy

  • Blbl March 13, 2019 (8:12 pm)

    Keeping overdue books is also a barrier to resources. 

  • Neighbor March 13, 2019 (8:25 pm)

    I agree that removing fines is a terrible idea, but I also don’t want to remove people’s access if they can’t afford the fines. How about if we just limit their access to using materials *in* the library, as opposed to checking anything out?

    • CMT March 13, 2019 (9:23 pm)

      That’s a good idea.  I know fines motivate me to return my items.

  • TJ March 13, 2019 (8:47 pm)

    So in 7 years the cost to operate the libraries as is has jumped over 30%? And the new levy is a 75% increase over the expiring one? And the fine removal is stupid. Another levy renewal that has grown far more than peoples incomes. If anyone that cries about affordability here is also someone who votes for these levies, look in the mirror and say hypocrite

    • CAM March 14, 2019 (10:49 am)

      No, the proposed levy would increase your contribution by 30% over your current contribution and the total levy collected would increase by 57%, I’m assuming due to increased property values. I’m not seeing where you got the 75% number at all. 

    • CAM March 14, 2019 (10:51 am)

      TJ your estimate for the change in total levy collected was accurate. I calculated that wrong at first. That still doesn’t increase your or my contribution by 75%.

    • Emma March 14, 2019 (12:08 pm)

      Remember the camel’s nose under the tent? This is only the 2nd time for this levy. Money was tight the first go-round, and since we love our libraries so much, it was an easy sell. Otherwise hours, purchases would have to be cut! I am both a library user and on a fixed income who voted against this levy the first time around precisely because of that damned camel!And now not only do we have a renewal, but she asks for more. Who is advising Mayor Durkan? They must have way more money than me and probably many others in this town. You know how universities have student reps on governing councils? Mayor Durkan could benefit from someone on a fixed income in her in-group.  Only additional requirement is someone who can say – but what about this?

  • MSW March 13, 2019 (9:13 pm)

    So what is the 45 million extra will be used for? That seems excessive. You keep raising our taxes. Then you wonder why this city is not affordable. Keep the fines. People need to be responsible for returning the items they check out from the library.

  • 1994 March 13, 2019 (9:25 pm)

    I completed a library survey last year which included questions about about expanding or increasing library services like offering English classes and other types of classes. Did anyone else complete the survey? I replied no to additional services, keep the original function of the library and stop expanding ‘services’ that are available in the community already for free or very low cost. The library has a very clear mission and should stick to it. It already has greatly increased DVD availability.  When I sign up on the wait list for a DVD,  it tells you how many copies of a movie they have. I am shocked to see triple digits for some of the DVDs…. 

    • sigh March 14, 2019 (10:12 am)

      Let me get this right–you go to rent a DVD and so many other people also want to rent the same DVD that there is a wait list.  And then in the next breath you are “shocked” to see how many copies of some DVDs they have?  I mean…  Surely you see the issue here?  You do realize you described your first hand experience as to why they need so many copies of a movie?   And then voiced disapproval about how many copies of movies they have?

  • _M_H March 13, 2019 (9:26 pm)

    Let’s see…If the fines are eliminated, there is no incentive to bring the books back. That’s the same as giving them away.  If the books are given away, sooner or later the library will be empty and won’t need a maintenance and operation fund anymore.

    • Sigh March 15, 2019 (9:23 am)

      If the fines are eliminated, there is no incentive to bring the books back.”  You have shown the world what motivates you–money.  But please speak only for yourself, because even without fines I understand how libraries work–and so does my 4 year old.  And so even without fines we would absolutely return all of our library books every two weeks.  So speak for yourself when you say fines were your only incentive to be a decent patron of the library.  Others have internal motivation, and don’t need to be coerced into doing the right thing just because of fiscal punishment.  That’s what I’m teaching my child–and that’s what I wish you had learned.  We should do things because they are right, not because we are worried about getting in trouble if we don’t do them.  This whole attitude of “but if there is no punishment why would anyone ever do the right thing?!?!” is downright scary.  Have we fallen that far as a society?  

  • Gina March 13, 2019 (9:31 pm)

    Sno-Isle library (Snohomish and Island Counties) eliminated fines years ago. What happens is that if items are not returned by the due date a replacement charge for the item occurs immediately. Once the item is returned the replacement fee goes away with no fines accessed. Especially in the South and of Seattle there are a lot of geographic and distance issues in accessing libraries.

    • Blbl March 14, 2019 (9:30 am)

       If geographical access is the problem, then fix that. The city can add return drop boxes in any neighborhood. 

  • SeaSpade March 13, 2019 (10:08 pm)

    I implore any candidates for our District’s City Council Seat – including the incumbent – to have a “profile in courage” moment and adopt a policy that no levy will be replaced with a levy that is more than the rate of inflation above the last one in size.  Make the pledge “I won’t give away your stuff”If we don’t stop this doubling and “free stuff for all” mentality, there will be a lot of unintended consequences….let’s not cry later when we figure out we don’t have free parking in the junction because of the property tax burden.

    • sigh March 14, 2019 (8:37 am)

      Your rant against “free stuff for all” ends with a worry that your free parking in the junction might go away.  You might want to think some more about your argument is all.

      • KM March 14, 2019 (12:55 pm)

        Only the “free stuff” Seaspade doesn’t want should go away, but the “free stuff” they want should absolutely stay.

  • Canton March 13, 2019 (10:31 pm)

    So aren’t these fines owed to the city(taxpayers)? So they want 8 mil of the 213 mil total property levy, to pay ourselves back? Per the Times, the back fines owed are currently $215,000.

    • Jasp45 March 13, 2019 (11:01 pm)

      Most people who can’t afford to pay a library fine also can’t afford to buy a house. 

  • Quora March 13, 2019 (10:36 pm)

    Another politician trying to further bloat an already outrageously bloated budget. What will we be next time, over $7B??? How about you work with what you got and implore the many people who are paid by the City of Seattle, some of them quite well, to come up with new and creative ways to operate within a sensible budget and solve problems. That’s what I do in the private sector.

  • Canton March 13, 2019 (11:05 pm)

    I would gladly pay a tax for a city whistleblower fund. 10,000 bucks to any city employee with a credible report of ethical or financial misconduct. 50,000 bonus for a conviction. 

  • DD March 14, 2019 (8:20 am)

    I support our library system and donate to the Seattle Public Library Foundation every year. However, I do not think that removing fines under the theory that they impact low income folks unfairly is the appropriate public policy move. Low, or even “no” income folks are just as capable of being responsible and returning items as anyone else.  If we send a message that it doesn’t matter, I suspect we’ll experience the negative impacts others have noted above…… lack of access to items, extended wait times for “holds” while people keep their books, CDs, DVDs as long as they want (including forever!) and  lack of consideration for others who are sharing these resources. If we go to a no fine policy,  there should also be a stricter limit on the number of items that can be checked out by a single party, and then a ban on further checkouts if there are items that have not been returned by their due date. We’ve got the computer tracking system to enable that.

  • High Point March 14, 2019 (8:44 am)

    Of all the city departments you all don’t think librarians did their research before making this proposal?

  • Kathy March 14, 2019 (8:47 am)

    I don’t understand.  If you can get to the library to check out an item, why can’t you get to the library to return it on time?

  • anonyme March 14, 2019 (9:52 am)

    What does meeting a deadline have to do with income?  I’m retired, living on Social Security, and can only access the library through a long and convoluted bus trip.  Yet I manage to return most library items on time, then pay the fines when I can’t.   This type of enabling is crippling our society and creating a class of entitled, irresponsible victims.  Not only that, it achieves the opposite of what it claims to rectify on a social justice level by perpetuating the stereotype that a deficiency of income equates with a deficiency of character.  Utter nonsense at every level.

    • Fiz March 14, 2019 (12:11 pm)


    • flimflam March 14, 2019 (5:27 pm)

      seriously – brave new world where nothing is a crime or punishable unless you can afford to  pay a fine, then, GUILTY!

    • Blbl March 14, 2019 (7:33 pm)

      YES!! Well said. 

  • ACT March 14, 2019 (10:53 am)

    Like someone mentioned above, Sno-Isle has been fine free for a long time, and Kitsap more recently.  There are a few other urban libraries (Baltimore, Columbus)  that have gone this route in the last few years, and they have actually found that their loss rate has gone down by increasing access and having less blocked accounts.https://slate.com/culture/2017/02/librarians-are-realizing-that-overdue-fines-undercut-libraries-missions.html The library posted some stuff on their website yesterday.  It looks like the increase in levy cost is for seismic retrofitting, new tech,  but also expanded hours in several locations (including big hours increases for South Park and High Point, and Friday hours at Delridge).   https://www.spl.org/about-us/the-organization/budget-and-operations/library-levy/2019-library-levy-proposal        

  • Ron Bemis March 14, 2019 (11:22 am)

    Mayor and City Council:1) Delete the “no fines” proposal  (aka, no common sense, no self  responsibility, no equity for everyone else already waiting weeks in line for popular books) from this  mega-money library levy proposal,2) place an alternative “maintain current services/no tax increase” library levy on the ballot, and3) if they are fairly informed, watch most Seattle voters vote for the alternative/no tax increase levy instead of the mega-levy tax,  and constructively consider this as a learning lesson from Seattle voters.

  • Matt March 14, 2019 (12:46 pm)

    My initial reaction to this was absolute OUTRAGE.  I blame part of that on the attention-grabbing headline in the Times when in reality $8 million of the $213 million would be for eliminating late fees.  A large number, to be sure, but only 3% of the levy.  My main concern is having to wait even longer for holds.  I still find it ridiculous that income is tied to your ability to have personal responsibility and return library items on time, but I can see scenarios where it would make it more difficult; e.g. illness that prevents you from getting to the library.  At that point, though, to get $15 in late fees you’d have to be 60+ days overdue. Maybe just allow late fees to be wiped out with a doctor’s note.  However, I’d support scrapping the new levy entirely and simply renewing the old levy; then, at the same time, approving a temporary 2 year levy at $8 million/year to remove the fines with a vote at 3 years to make it permanent.  Study the results and then decide whether or not to make it permanent.  What I’m more angry about is the mayor’s cavalier attitude of “oh I’ll just scrap existing levies and replace them at double the cost, b/c what are you going to do?  Make the school suffer? Go without the libraries?”

  • Millie March 14, 2019 (12:52 pm)

    I’m sorry but I thought the original levy (one expiring) was presented to the voters to KEEP LIBRARIES OPEN.  It was also to allow the Mayor and City Council to find a funding source within the general fund budget for the libraries.  Perhaps, my memory is fading but it was not intended to be a renewed levy every “X” number of years.  I don’t know with so many new and recurring levies, one wonders what is paid from the general fund.   Will the levy funds be used to purchase replacement materials (books/dvds/etc.) since there will be no penalty to irresponsibility?So many comments above are spot on!  Stop enabling bad behaviour!  If you use the library for resource materials – remember there are others needing the same resources – return them on time.   

  • Barbara March 14, 2019 (3:34 pm)

    If fines are eliminated, will the Library stop using the materials recovery service for long overdue balances that adds in $12 per time the account is referred to that company? What about people with a  library card account that has already been credit reported for non-payment of fines and lost materials balances? Will the library work to have this economic hardship removed from credit records so that these people will be able to get better rates in needed credit now? All of these situations happen to a greater degree to library users in lower income parts of the city. I would like to know more about the mechanics of what is actually being proposed. 

    • WSB March 14, 2019 (3:40 pm)

      Great questions. FWIW I requested the full text of the proposed levy legislation from the mayor’s office and they said it wasn’t ready yet. I would hope it’ll be ready before the Library Board’s vote next week so I’m watching now for that. – TR

    • CMT March 14, 2019 (4:20 pm)

      I was talking with a co-worker who let me know about the collection activity for unpaid fines.  I think that should be eliminated.  An account freeze for library usage seems fair and enough of an incentive to return books.

    • EL March 14, 2019 (9:35 pm)

      Library accounts with fees $25 and higher could be submitted to a collection agency, but they are no longer credit reported as of about 3 years ago.

  • anonyme March 14, 2019 (4:13 pm)

    I second BLBL’s idea of neighborhood drop boxes.  Millie makes some excellent points as well: what the heck is the general fund used for, if libraries, schools, and transportation all require levies?

  • Mj March 16, 2019 (12:47 pm)

    enonomy – the Council is using levies to fund items people will likely vote yes on and then redirects the general fund to their pet projects and programs that voters could reject.  Remember the head tax plan?  The City reconsidered after polling showed that voters were likely to reject this tax!  Yet the City continues expend more general fund money on this issue.  This money could be spent on libraries instead for example!

  • No more property tax March 20, 2019 (11:03 pm)

    This is crazy to ask people to pay other people’s library fines. Nope. Just return the materials! No more property tax increases!

Sorry, comment time is over.