For and against statements needed for Birch Bay library ballot measure

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The Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) is looking for volunteers to serve on committees for and against a ballot measure that would increase property taxes to support the Birch Bay Vogt Community Library. Those interested need to contact WCLS by Friday, May 14.

If passed in the November 2021 election, the Birch Bay Library Capital Facility Area (LCFA) ballot measure would increase Birch Bay property taxes by about 13 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average homeowner, this would mean paying about $3.93 per month to build the library (the Whatcom County Tax Assessor’s Office estimates median home values to be $350,000).

Committee volunteers will prepare statements for the voters’ pamphlet either supporting the measure or rejecting it. No more than three members will serve on each committee.

Friends of the Birch Bay Library (FOBBL), a grassroots group, helped secure a $2-million state appropriation in 2019 to reduce the cost of the estimated $6.5 million library. The appropriation depends on the community fundraising the remaining $4.35 million and was set to expire June 30, but FOBBL was able to get an extension into the state’s 2023 two-year budget, Perkins said.

“We are really grateful,” Perkins said. “We appreciate that the state understands Covid put a monkey wrench in fundraising and this gives us more time to secure funding for the project.”

The Birch Bay library would be the first in the county funded with a LCFA, Perkins said.

Washington state law allows voters, through LCFAs, to create an independent tax authority to build library buildings. The LCFA would only exist for the term of the building project and the resolution of bonds or loans taken out to raise the funds, WCLS executive director Christine Perkins. Over 60 percent of voters need to approve and over 40 percent of people who voted in the last general election need to vote, she said.

The LCFA encompasses areas outside Semiahmoo, Point Whitehorn, Grandview Road, Jackson Road, Bay Road, Kickerville Road and Birch Bay-Lynden Road.

The community in which the library resides provides the building, and WCLS provides the library operations and materials, Perkins said.

“The shell of the building is provided by the community and then we budget for library material, technology and the ongoing cost of staff,” she said.

Whatcom County municipalities own most of the library buildings but unincorporated areas like Birch Bay need to fundraise on their own. FOBBL president Dianne Marrs-Smith said the group has raised over $203,000.

According to WCLS, private donations will also lower the amount property owners would pay if the measure is passed.

The library is named after the Vogt family, who lived at the 7968 Birch Bay Drive property that WCLS purchased in 2018, when WCLS began gathering public input. According to WCLS, over 80 percent of respondents to a community survey supported a small tax increase to help build the library.

WCLS has stressed that Birch Bay’s population is estimated to almost double to 13,000 people in the next two decades. Nearly 2,000 children in Birch Bay don’t have access to a library.

About 5,000 Birch Bay residents are WCLS cardholders, Perkins said.

“This is a unique opportunity to do something positive,” Perkins said. “In the past one and a half years, there’s been a lot of sadness and uncertainty. This is a way to build something for the future to benefit people of all ages in the community.”

To serve on the committee, contact Ruth Nail at ruth.nail@wcls.org or call 360/305-3641 by Friday, May 14. People interested in donating to the library can also visit wcls.org/give.

FOBBL will host LCFA town hall meetings July 22 and October 2. Information will be available at friendsofbirchbaylibrary.org

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