A West Richland vote on a new way to pay for library services provided by Mid-Columbia Libraries was too close to call after the initial vote count Tuesday.
The ballots counted on Tuesday have 1,933 voters approving the levy and 1,914 opposing. Just 19 votes separate the totals, with 50 percent in favor and 49 opposed.
The next ballot count is being released at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The city contracts for services at its library on West Van Giesen Street under an unusual funding arrangement. Money comes primarily from a utility tax approved by voters in 2003 of 2.5 percent on telephone, electric and gas bills.
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Revenue has flagged recently as residents canceled landlines in favor of mobile devices and data plans, which are not taxable by under the voter approved utility tax. Mild winters have contributed to a shortfall in collections for the library contract.
The ballot proposition would drop the utility tax and replace it with a property tax increase of about 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, with about 7 cents of it kept by the city to maintain the library building and the rest paid to Mid-Columbia Libraries.
The cost to residents is estimated at about $15 more a year than the current utility fee, which would be terminated at the end of 2016.
If the proposition does not pass, the city likely will terminate its contract with Mid-Columbia Libraries, leaving library services for West Richland residents in limbo. The city’s library fund from the utility tax is expected to be depleted by spring.