Explaining the possible annexation of Hoquiam into Timberland

At the last board meeting in Amanda Park, we agreed to go ahead with a public vote on whether Hoquiam will annex into the Timberland Regional Library system. There seems to be some confusion on what the impact of annexation would be on the Hoquiam Library, that Hoquiam would lose control over its library or that Timberland will close down the branch.

I’ll explain more below, but the bottom line is that the only way to make sure the Hoquaim library stays open is for Hoquiam to annex into Timberland. If Hoquiam annexes, nothing changes at all.

Here is a very good Q&A from the last city that voted to annex into Timberland. Shelton passed their annexation by 80 percent.

So, a little background:

When it was formed, the Timberland Regional Library district was only able to serve rural residents, people living outside city boundaries. Almost immediately though, Timberland began relationships with cities to serve people in incorporated areas.

There are two ways Timberland can serve city residents, through annexation and a contract. Currently Hoquiam is one of three cities that contract with Timberland for service (Winlock and Raymond also contract).

All of the other cities in which Timberland provides services are annexed into the district. There are also cities that are annexed into TRL that don’t have libraries (Cosmopolis and Rainier). This could be where the fear of TRL closing the Hoquiam library comes from, since Cosmopolis once had a library which was closed in the 1980s. But, since it costs over $400,000 to run the Hoquiam library and we collect only $150,000 from Hoquiam in contract fees, if the board wanted to close the branch, we would have done so by now.

Also, since Hoquiam contract with TRL for library service, Hoquiam would have no less control over the Hoquiam library if the city annexed than it does now. The city would still own and largely maintain the building, but TRL would provide the library staff, books and services (as it does now).

So, the distinction between annexed and contract cities is only how the money to provide library services is funneled. In contract cities, the money comes from the city government itself. In annexed cities, Timberland levies its own tax to provide services.

The amounts in either case are identical because the contract fee for cities that contract with Timberland is always what the library district would have collected in taxes.  So, in the case of Hoquiam, if the city had been annexed into Timberland in 2009, Timberland would have collected just shy of $150,000 in library taxes from the residents. But, because the city had contracted with Timberland, that same money still came from city residents, but came through the city first.

So, why would a city choose to contract instead of annexing in?

1. Finances: The cause of Hoquaim to look at annexation now was the closure of the Grays Harbor paper mill. That closure put a large strain on the city’s own budget, and they looked to cut costs.

I’m not sure what the property tax levy is in Hoquiam, but there are some changes that occur when a city annexes into a library district. Here is a very detailed description. But, the basic formula is:

Without a library district the city can assess up to $3.375 per thousand.

Annexed into a district, the city can levy up to $3.60 per thousand minus what the library levies (which is as high was $.50 per thousand, but right now is about $.35). The Hoquiam levy (as far as I can tell) is $3.29.

I certainly don’t want to speak with any level of authority on this, but from what I can tell, annexing into the district at these rates would decrease the possible city level to $3.25.

2. Control: Basically speaking, if a city is annexed into a library district and wants to run its own library (like how Ocean Shores does now), its harder to leave. If Hoquiam votes to annex in and then decides to leave, the city needs to wait at least three years. Then, it takes a vote of the entire city, not just a decision by the city council.

On the other hand, a contract city could just decide not to renew the contract and be on its own almost immediately.

So, in the end, since the Hoquiam city council has indicated they’d like to not pay a contract fee, the only certain source of funding for the Hoquiam Library is through a direct levy by Timberland. I’m certainly not in favor of closing the library under any circumstances.

Also for further reading, here is an interesting article about Pasco and the Mid-Columbia library system and their recent contract talks.

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Filed under Chat from the community, Meeting reports, What Timberland is doing

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