Misunderstanding of levy capacity of libraries behind Yelm situation

There might be a misunderstanding of how long intercounty rural library districts can bond for built into the proposal for Yelm and TRL to split the cost of buying the Yelm branch. Rural library districts (like Timberland Regional Library) have a much shorter borrowing period than other local governments (6 compared to 20), making large borrowing much more expensive.

From an opinion piece by Mayor Ron Harding in the Nisqually Valley News:

The planned proposal reduces Timberland Regional Library’s estimated cost from about $90,000 per year down to about $37,000, which should be affordable even under TRL current budget constraints.

From another opinion piece earlier in the Nisqually Valley News:

Though Timberland will be asked to pay approximately $600,000 of the cost for purchasing the library, it really is a reasonable expense.

To get from $37,000 to $600,000 (plus the interest on the bonds) , you have to take the loan out to 20 years. $37,000 multiplied by 20 years gets you to $740,000, which is roughly the principal plus interest.

The problem with this calculation is that unlike other local governments, rural library districts can only bond for six year periods. To afford a $600,000 loan, TRL would have to pay it back over a shorter period of time. An amortization schedule prepared by TRL staff pegs that cost at over $114,000 a year.

RCW 27.12.222 is the governing statute in this case:

A rural county library district, intercounty rural library district, or island library district may contract indebtedness and issue general obligation bonds not to exceed an amount, together with any outstanding nonvoter approved general obligation indebtedness, equal to one-tenth of one percent of the value of the taxable property within the district, as the term “value of the taxable property” is defined in RCW 39.36.015. The maximum term of nonvoter approved general obligation bonds shall not exceed six years…

There have been at least two efforts (HB 1930 and HB 1813) to extend the term of bonds that library boards can issue, but both of these efforts failed. Though, they did have some traction, so its not like it was a totally unpopular idea.

Non-voter approved bonds split between a city and a library district are not the only path to making sure the current Yelm library stays where it is. A Library Capital Facility Area, I think, would be a much better option.

And, since Mayor Harding has assurance that the library could stay in its current location for the short term at the city’s expense, I’m pretty sure that would give us the time we need to get an LCFA campaign together.



Filed under Chat from the community, Yelm

3 responses to “Misunderstanding of levy capacity of libraries behind Yelm situation

  1. Bit of a tangent, but a minor quibble with part of Keven Graves’ editorial implying that Yelm is much more a regional than a city facility: “Even though the City of Yelm now has about 6,850 residents, the Yelm library currently has more than 17,000 cardholders.”

    I don’t know the details about how the latter figure was calculated, but I assume it includes all registered TRL cardholders who have Yelm designated as their home branch. But–and granted, this is from anecdotal experience, not hard data–I would bet that there are a significant number of inactive accounts that haven’t been updated to reflect the user’s current location. Someone in Yelm who had a TRL card at one time but has subsequently moved away (for example, the family of a military service member since deployed elsewhere) may still, as far as the library’s records are concerned, be on the books with Yelm as their home branch. So I’m guessing there’s a significant amount of bloat in that 17,000 figure.

  2. Kelsie Raddas

    Hi Brian,
    Actually, those number are new and have the inactive users removed from the stats. I believe the number used to be something like 20,000 cardholders and has been updated to the 17,000.



  3. Huh, thanks, Kelsie. I was wondering whether they had accounted for that. Good to know.

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