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City of Seattle
Proposition No. 1
Regular Tax Levy Including Seattle Public Libraries

The City of Seattle’s Proposition 1 concerns supporting, maintaining and improving core Library Services.


This proposition would increase library collections, support library hours and services, update technology and maintain library facilities, as provided in Ordinance No. 123851. It authorizes regular property taxes above RCW 84.55 limits, allowing additional 2013 collection of up to $17,000,000 (approximately $0.15/$1,000 assessed value) and up to $122,630,099 over seven years. In 2013, total City taxes collected would not exceed $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value.


Should this levy be approved?



Seattle Proposition 1 approves a property tax increase totaling $122,630,099 over seven years.  The levy is limited so that the City shall not levy more than $17,000,000 in the first year and the levy amount cannot grow by more than 1% per year.  The taxes raised would provide funding for operations, major maintenance and capital improvements for the Seattle Public Library.  Section 5 of the levy ordinance states that “Levy investments will be made in the following four categories of Library Services”:

1.         Hours and Access.  For example, major program elements may include supporting operating hours at the neighborhood branches and Central Library, and providing support for in-person reference services.

2.         Collections.  For example, major program elements may include providing variety and depth in the Library’s collections with new titles in print and other formats, increasing the size and quality of the digital collection, and making local history resources more widely available through digitization.

3.         Technology.  For example, major program elements may include replacements and upgrades to the Library’s public computer inventory and online resources, including user-focused improvements to the catalog and public website.

4.         Maintenance.  For example, major program elements may include enhanced resources to provide regular care and major maintenance, such as repair or replacement of structural elements and building systems, for the Library’s heavily-used buildings as they age, to prolong their useful life and ensure they are clean, safe and welcoming.

These major program elements are illustrative examples. The levy funds will be spent in accordance with the annual City budget process for each year of the levy. The City Librarian and Library Board shall submit to the Mayor and City Council the funding and expenditure plan that will support, maintain and improve the core library services identified in the categories above.  Each year the Library Board shall adopt an annual operations plan and capital budget.

               Proposition 1 would authorize the collection of more property taxes than would otherwise be allowed by the limits imposed under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 84.55.  That state law generally limits the annual increase in property tax revenue to 1% over the highest amount that the City could have received in one of the three most recent years.  Proposition 1 lifts that lid on property taxes.

               The taxes authorized by Proposition 1 are in addition to those collected under the limits of RCW 84.55 or any other authorized levy lid lifts.  In the first year of collection (2013), the additional tax rate associated with the tax increase authorized by Proposition 1 for any property owner would be approximately 15 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value.  The City’s total regular property-tax rate would not exceed the state-law rate limit of $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value.  Taxes levied in 2019 for collection in 2020, and later tax levies, would be calculated as if Proposition 1 had not been passed.



Seattle’s neighborhood and downtown libraries are a treasured resource for all of us.  We must keep them, open, accessible and maintain our world class collection of materials—from archives to e-books, children’s collections to computers.


The recession, compounded by caps on revenue following Eyman tax cut initiatives, have resulted in real cuts to library hours and services.  With more cuts on the horizon, we have the opportunity to step up and make an investment in our libraries with a YES vote on Seattle Proposition 1.  




All of us should have access to what the Library can offer.  The Seattle Public Library system is the one public institution that is open to all people regardless of age, economic status, or social class. We can’t allow branches to close or hours to be cut.  Staffing levels, maintenance, collections or technology upgrades should not fall behind more than they already have.


Without this Levy, the ability of our libraries to serve every neighborhood is in jeopardy. Another year of budget cuts could mean cuts equal to closing five branch libraries—at a time when more and more people are using our libraries.


Our libraries are an increasingly important destination for kids.  With statewide education cuts and tighter funding at Seattle Schools, our libraries are needed as a safe, nurturing place to study, do school related research, or receive extra tutoring after school. Without this levy, cuts in hours and technology threaten access and services Seattle kids deserve.




We must maintain the whole system.  In 1998, voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that funded construction of the new Downtown Main Library, four new branches, and renovated all existing Library branches.  These levy funds will protect and maintain one of the finest library systems in the country. 


With your vote, these funds will be put to immediate, positive use.  The current policy of shutting down the entire system for one week each summer will end; hours would be added to branch libraries; and, all 26 branches and the main Library downtown will be open on Sundays.


Neighborhood libraries are a critical part of our quality of life, providing study space, meeting facilities, materials for personal and professional growth, and educational programs that build great communities.


Please join leaders and organizations throughout Seattle in support of our Libraries!


Norm Rice, former Mayor; Eric Liu, education leader and past Library Board President; Virginia Anderson, former Seattle Center Director

Stop City officials from playing games with our libraries, which need regular funding, not this temporary, unaccountable levy


A core public service that we all treasure, Seattle’s libraries are being starved by the Mayor and City Council.  Revenues are increasing, but they manufactured a crisis to scare voters into approving this $122.6 million ($17 million+/year) property tax increase. 


Ballot measures should be used for infrequent capital projects or for unavoidable emergencies, not for ongoing operations.  Operations should be funded from the regular budget, our City’s statement of its true priorities.  This levy is temporary and moves our Library away from the stable funding it had for a century.


And it’s the least accountable levy proposed to voters in years.  The levy ordinance (it’s in this pamphlet) governs.  Officials refused to include any commitment to maintain libraries’ regular funding (now $51 million/year); increase hours, services, and technology (didn’t even promise not to cut them); or empower an oversight committee to protect branch funding from diversion to the downtown library.


When the libraries needed reconstruction, voters rejected a similarly lax measure, forcing the Mayor and City Council to craft “Libraries for All” with accountability which this levy sorely lacks, and voters passed it in 1998.  But the lesson was forgotten. 


Only if we say “no” to this levy will officials produce a package that empowers the Library, not themselves.  Passage encourages their cutting of its regular funds, to be diverted to purposes they’re afraid to put before the voters, like bailing out the mismanaged City pension fund’s $1 billion deficit. 


People are struggling in a tough economy, and property taxes are already high, with more billions coming to the ballot for the Youth Justice Center; Medic One; Seawall; Schools; and renewal of the parks, transportation, and housing levies.  Can you afford it? 


To save the Library, join us in insisting on real financial security, not holding it hostage for a tax increase.  Stop the Mayor and City Council from playing games with this cherished institution, and from cutting its regular funding.  Reject this temporary levy, and let’s work together to ensure full Library funding in the regular budget. 


Rick Barrett (campaigner for the Libraries for All bond issue; library cardholder since 1938)

Suzie Burke (business owner and resident; 10 library cards in the family)

Chris Leman (Treasurer, Seattle Community Council Federation)


Background:  Positions listed for identification purposes only.

The cuts suffered by our libraries are real-- and only getting worse.

From staffing levels to collections; routine and long term maintenance; technology upgrades and branch library hours -- we can't afford to fall behind anymore than we already have. 

Libraries are an essential service, but as the City budget shrinks, every department has sacrificed-- our libraries are not exempt from revenue loss.

The impacts of these cuts are felt in every neighborhood, by kids, seniors, and families. With a Yes vote, all 26 branches and downtown will benefit: longer hours, more materials, needed safety and maintenance upgrades.

All of us should have access to our Seattle Public Libraries, an essential part of our quality of life. Please Vote Yes!

For more information:
PO Box 21681, Seattle, WA 98111 •

No to this tax increase.   Yes to higher priority from regular funds.

To force another tax increase, the Mayor and City Council are cutting Library funding.  We must reject the scare tactics and insist that the Library get more in the regular budget.   The City collects almost $1 billion/year in regular revenue.   It can afford to fully fund the Library, one of its smallest departments.  

The Library needs full, regular funding, not this levy which moves it away from financial stability.  The levy ordinance is temporary and lacks accountability.   It doesn’t require increased hours, or even exclude reduced hours or closed branches.  It frees the Mayor and Council to divert the Library’s regular funds to other uses.

Stop the game-playing.  Let’s get started on a real solution to this manufactured crisis.   Our Library is too important not to fund it fully from the regular budget.     

For more information:

Simple Majority (RCW 84.55.050)
1252 en-US Production

TTY: Relay 711

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