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Originally published Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 9:35 PM

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Seattle libraries, county juvenile-justice levies ahead in first returns

A Seattle levy to restore library operations and services was passing easily in initial returns, while a measure to rebuild the King County Youth Services Center was being approved by a more narrow margin.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A Seattle levy to restore library operations and services was passing easily in initial returns, while a measure to rebuild the King County Youth Services Center was being approved by a more narrow margin.

Both measures need a simple majority to be approved. The library levy had support of 62 percent of voters; the Youth Services Center was being approved by 53 percent.

"I really, really want to thank the voters of Seattle for their generosity," said Seattle Librarian Marcellus Turner. "Everywhere I went over the past few months, the support from the public for their libraries was very strong."

Despite the libraries' popularity, the seven-year, $123 million property-tax levy was controversial because it will fund day-to-day operations rather than one-time needs.

The levy funds will restore service hours, rebuild collections, upgrade computers and maintain buildings neglected after four years of city budget cuts. Next year, library branches that are now closed Sundays will reopen and staff will no longer have to take a weeklong, unpaid furlough. City officials estimated in January that the library would lose an additional $5 million in 2013 because the city is facing another $32 million shortfall in the general-fund budget. But critics of the levy said the general fund is the best statement of city priorities, and that existing library funding should be preserved and other, less-crucial programs cut.

Also being approved was a nine-year, $210 million property-tax measure to rebuild the county's aging Youth Services Center.

"It's still early, but these are very positive results," said County Executive Dow Constantine. "We have great programs in the county, but an awful facility."

In addition to the support of Constantine, the plan to renovate the nine-acre juvenile justice and family services complex near Seattle University has the backing of county Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, former U.S. Attorney John McKay and all nine County Council members.

The levy would modernize the youth center's courtrooms, offices and detention center, some of which date to 1952.

Opposition came from a group that said money should be put into social services and education for youth and families and not for incarceration.

More money issues await: Voters also will be asked to approve a $120 million King County levy to support an automated fingerprint system and a $290 million Seattle levy to replace the waterfront seawall in the Nov. 6 general election.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @lthompsontimes.

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