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After vote, library cuts staff, hours



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November 14, 2012 - Now that the ballots have been counted, the newly established Clarkston Independence District Library will continue operating under a .691 mill rate. In light of the proposal's failure, the board is gearing up for another campaign for a 1.25 mill rate in 2014.

The race on November 6 was tight with only 30 ballots making up the difference between "yes" and "no" votes.

As a result of the "no" vote, the library board has responded by cutting the library's hours of operation from 63 hours to 57 hours. Patrons can visit on Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. 9 p.m. or Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. 6 p.m. The library will no longer be open on Sundays.

Reducing the days and times the doors are open isn't the only change the board has made, but it has chosen to cut staff too. The library currently employs nine full time workers, but the board decided it could afford only eight.

"The problem is these cuts we have to make now will last a full two years because there will be no ballot initiative in 2013, and we certainly can't afford a special election," said Board President Marilyn Pomeroy.

The cuts to hours and staff the library board approved during their meeting on November 9, are just a few in a long line of slashes to the budget, Pomeroy pointed out.

Because of its stretched finances, the library had already closed an additional 23 days, stopped opening on Sundays in the summer months, eliminated one full-time position, ended all children's after-school programs, and cut its budget for books, movies, and music by 43 percent.

In August 2014, the library will ask voters again for a 1.25 mill rate to replace the current .691 rate. "The next vote will be essentially whether we're going to fund the library or we are not going to have a library," Pomeroy said. In other words, if the District Library is not funded at a 1.25 mill rate, it will likely close.

"We reestablish the library, and we get two chances to fund it. We get another chance in 2014," explained Library Director Julie Meredith.

"The District Library agreement states that if it does not pass in 2014, the District library dissolves, and it reverts back. Unfortunately, it can't revert back. We can't revert back to a law that doesn't exist anymore," Meredith said.

Not only will patrons lose the Clarkston Independence District Library if the millage doesn't pass in 2014, but residents won't find service at neighboring township libraries either, Meredith and Pomeroy added.

"Those libraries operate with us under a reciprocal agreement," said Pomeroy. "If this library dissolves those libraries are not going to provide services to Independence Township residents."

Why didn't the 1.25 mill rate pass this time? Pomeroy thinks it is a combination of several factors.

"The climate, of course, has been difficult for any millage passing," said Pomeroy.

She also notes supporters had only three months to educate locals before the general election because the Township and City agreed to reestablish the library and accept the 1.25 mill rate in August.

The placement of the library's proposal at the very end of a long ballot full of state proposals may have contributed to the "no" votes too. Meredith knew of some supporters who unintentionally voted against a new mill rate for the district library.

Another challenge was "just trying to get the message out to everyone with a limited amount of money," said Pomeroy.

If the District Library's millage had been left up to only those Independence Township voters who came out to the polls on Election Day, it would have passed. 51 percent of citizens who cast ballots on November 6 voted in favor of the 1.25 mill rate whereas 53 percent of absentee voters were against it.

Most Clarkston Village citizens approved the millage; 357 voters marked "yes" and 202 marked "no" on their ballots.

As the library board moves forward with a .691 mill rate, more budget cuts are expected. Library patrons can anticipate fewer service offerings, and part-time positions may be eliminated too.

"Unfortunately we've cut to the point where there's nothing left to cut that would be invisible," said Meredith.

The library will have until August 2014 to convince voters to pay 1.25 instead of .691 mills. In the meantime, "we're hoping that citizens will really evaluate what the library can do for them," said Pomeroy.

To view the library's budget go to www.indelib.org.

Clarkston News reporter
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