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Editorial for July 29, 2010

Don't let it happen here.

Residents within the area served by the White Salmon Valley Community Library district can take a lesson from what recently happened in Hood River. On May 18, voters in Hood River County turned down a proposal to create a new library district. The result is that all library facilities in Hood River County -- some of which had been operating for nearly a century -- closed as of July 1, and the county no longer has library services.

Officials of the Vancouver-based Fort Vancouver Regional Library District -- which includes the White Salmon Community Library -- say no libraries will close outright if the library district's upcoming levy measure is defeated. If the levy fails to gain approval, the district will, however, cut the hours various branch libraries are open. The budget for book purchases will also be slashed.

In short, reductions in hours and services across the entire library district loom if the levy measure is not supported by voters. Rejection of the library levy would be a dangerous path to go down for anyone who values learning and the educational resources a library provides.

The district is currently facing declining revenues and increasing maintenance and operations costs, and needs some help. So the library is proposing a relatively modest raising of the levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. A fact sheet from the library suggests that the rate would be the equivalent of a paltry $20 more in taxes per year for someone owning a $250,000 house.

To the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District's credit, it has not asked for a tax increase to help pay for maintenance and operations funding since 1993. The district has put off asking for more tax support for a very long time, making it all the more essential that voters support this measure now.

Many people are having a difficult time with their own budgets these days, and paying taxes is never easy. But supporting the library -- like supporting our schools, our fire departments, and our police departments -- benefits the entire community in the long run.

The library's levy request is an investment well worth making. We urge voters in the district -- which covers all of Klickitat County, all of Skamania County, and virtually all of Clark County -- to vote "Yes" on the library levy measure on the Aug. 17 primary election ballot.



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