Sno-Isle Libraries receives about 98 percent of its funding for daily operations and maintenance from the general library levy.
The levy affects all properties within the library district in Snohomish and Island counties. The cities of Everett, Bothell and Woodway are not part of the library district.
The library operations levy is collected by county treasurers in Snohomish and Island counties and funds are transferred to Sno-Isle Libraries.
The remaining 2 percent of library funding comes from a variety of sources, such as:
- Reassessed value of property where new construction has occurred
- Timber sales tax
- Leasehold excise tax
- Contract fees
- Donations and grants
- Investment interest
The voter-approved levy sets both a levy rate and the amount of money that rate raises on the assessed value of properties within the library district. Assessed property value is determined by the assessor's offices in Snohomish and Island counties and on a total county-wide level, not by a specific community or individual property values.
Property owners in unincorporated areas of the library district see a line item on their annual property tax statement reflecting the Sno-Isle Libraries levy. Property owners within cities in the library district may also have a line item on their annual property tax statement for Sno-Isle Libraries service. The Snohomish County Assessor's Office and the Island County Assessor's Office have information online to review property taxes in general and for specific properties.
According to state law, the library levy rate cannot be more than 50 cents ($0.50) for each $1,000 of assessed property value. And, the amount of money raised by the levy is capped at 1 percent a year, except in years when voters approve a change. The assessed value of new construction is also added to this funding base in accordance with the law.
To stay within those limits, the levy rate goes up or down as property values change. Generally, when property values increase for properties within the library district, the general library levy rate goes down. When property values decrease, the levy rate can increase, but not above the legal limit of 50 cents ($0.50) for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
While property-tax funding is relatively stable, it does not keep pace with rising costs of doing business due to the 1 percent cap on levy revenue. This means that a rise in property values does not reflect an equal rise in library-district funding.
To keep up with inflation, increasing population and other factors, voters are periodically asked to consider an increase in the library levy rate. A levy-rate increase request must be approved by a simple majority of voters within the library district in Snohomish and Island counties to take effect. If approved, the levy increase is implemented the following year. This results in funding which sustains the level of library services provided. If voters reject a levy, the previous levy would continue at the previously approved rate and Sno-Isle Libraries would make corresponding reductions in service. The most recent voter-approved levy was in 2018. The previous levy to 2018 was approved by voters in 2009.
The library operations levy is not intended for buildings, often called capital projects. New or substantially renovated libraries are funded through separate community voter-approved bond elections. Funds for library bonds are earmarked for specific projects and cannot be used for ongoing operations and maintenance purposes. Once the bonds are paid off, the bond levy and bond assessment end.