Letter: Library Scrooges raise Property Tax Revenues for 2021 even with $6,000,000 surplus?

Vancouver resident Gary Wilson discusses the budget of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library.

The average Fort Vancouver Regional Library homeowner pays $250/year in property taxes for the library operating budget and the capital facilities fund (renters also pay increased rent as a result).

My comment is based on their 2020 budget as reflected in November’s library board meeting.

Gary Wilson Vancouver
Gary Wilson Vancouver

The day before December’s public hearing on the budget, the library hastily amended the 2020 budget on their website to remove or hide over $4 million in revenue coming from reserves and reimbursements, so now, rather than show an excess of revenues at year end in the $6 million range and not have to increase tax revenues or heaven forbid lower them, they try to justify an increase in tax revenues.

In their haste to move numbers around, the amended 2020 budget showed 24 calculation errors (to which they had no comment when this was brought to the library board’s attention at the hearing). Due to their creative accounting, property taxes now fund 93 percent of the budget as opposed to only 80 percent prior to removing these revenues, many of which were discretionary.

Actual 2020 expenses compared to the original 2020 budget thru October, shows they only spent 63 percent of their budget but are 83 percent through the year, however, they are increasing collections from taxpayers for 2021 from this years $24,969,789 to $25,120,107.

No one knows how long COVID restrictions will keep the library closed and offering little to no services. No one thought in March that the library would remain closed over nine months later. We do know it will remain closed for the foreseeable future into 2021.

Even after removing these revenue streams the library is still projected to have a surplus close to $2 million at year end. Rather than pay it forward and give COVID struggling taxpayers a needed reprieve, the library is increasing tax revenues in 2021 (although the levy rate is going down slightly, increased home valuations will more than make up the difference resulting in taxpayers spending more for property taxes in 2021, to forcibly pay for a library that remains closed).

Also, our library supports Drag Queen Story Hour for Children, where a fully dressed drag queen reads gender confusing books to a target audience of 3-year olds to 8-year olds. An overwhelming majority feel this is not a proper use of library resources as over 3,700 Fort Vancouver residents have pledged to vote “No” on the next library levy to come before voters. Is it in a child’s best interest to question their gender? The library believes it is and is teaching them to do so. (go to “Keep the Library Safe for Children” website)

The library is by law allowed to increase tax revenues by 1 percent annually and since they are only raising it by .6 percent they signed a resolution to raise .4 percent sometime in the future. How thoughtful. The rich get richer and can add to their $6 million surplus while the struggling taxpayer or renter trying to provide for themselves and their family are hit with more debt to pay. 

The Bob Cratchit’s of the Fort Vancouver Library District pay more while the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Scrooges add even more to their coffers even with projected millions of dollars of surplus from this year. It’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for our closed library, not as merry and happy for the rest of us forced to foot the bill for their excess.

Gary Wilson

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