Last year during and after the debate over the levy lid lift, there was a lot of talk about what counties carried the burden of the entire system. It was openly assumed that Thurston County, which pays about half of the entire budget of the system in property taxes carries the burden
But, after poking around the budget information I could get my hands on in the last few months, the opposite is actually true. Thurston County is actually the largest beggar county in the system.
But, here’s the short version of the story. Thurston County pays about $9.9 million in property taxes to Timberland and gets back about $11.2 million in library services. That by itself is a big deficit, but you have to look at the rest of the budget to get a clearer vision.
Much of the rest of the district budget is made up of timber revenue, the total of which being about $1.8 million. Thurston County would need to produce most of the timber revenue in the district to actually qualify as a donor community, but it actually (based on what I could tell from DOR) only produces 10 percent of the timber revenue.
So, all things being equal, Thurston County actually begs $1.1 million from the rest of the district. Mason County actually ends up donating the most, about $250,000.
All that said, I don’t like to think about the district in these sorts of terms.
Yes, the Library was founded by five separate counties, but I think we need to look at the budget on the district level and not on making sure every single geography gets what they pay for.
If we thought like that for other services, better off neighborhoods would get more attention from the police or fire department. But, the fire department should go where the fires are.
And, while I was really surprised to see the budget information for Thurston County, I feel I’ve been consistent on this point.