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Addison library to seek tax hike on Aug. ballot

April 02, 2014 - The Addison Township Public Library will ask voters to approve a new, additional property tax of 0.25 mill on the Aug. 5 ballot.

The library board voted 4-0 to approve the ballot language at their March 27 special meeting. The additional millage would be a 10-year millage and is estimated to generate new revenue of $71,878 in the first year levied. The money would go towards general library operations and maintenance.

Because of Headlee rollbacks, the library's original 1984 indefinite millage of 0.75 mill has been reduced to 0.57 mill, so the 0.25 would bring the total to 0.82 mill for the course of next 10 years.

"It costs more to run libraries these days in terms of technology, but in general we feel that we want to maintain our services the best we can. In 2009 we received about $200,000 for our millage and now we're receiving about $160,000," explained Library Director Jaema Berman. "What we're levying is so much less and has decreased the last few years."

While the library millage has seen an steady decline over the past six years, the $159,000 for 2014 is an estimated increase of about $2,000 from 2013, which can be attributed to the increase in home values, noted Berman.

"Housing values are gradually coming back which is a good thing for libraries and other public services," she said. "That's a sign that the economy is starting to improve and that will definitely affect our funding in a positive way."

Library Board President Su Hatfield wishes they didn't have to go to the people and ask for more money, but if they would have stayed at their previous location, behind township hall they still would have had to go for an additional millage.

"We knew coming into this building that our expenses were going to be more and we knew that we would probably have to go for another millage, but we also knew that little building (we were in) was not going to last much longer," she said.

"Even if we stayed at the other location we knew we'd have to dip into our savings because it needed some major renovations there too, that's why we're here."

"In hindsight, it was a good move because we could have lost the whole library if it was over there because there was a water break and everything was lost there," she added.

Even though at the time, Hatfield said they were offering people the best they could offer with the resources they had at the previous building, she felt the people's money could be better spent, which is why when the opportunity arose for them to move to their current location, they jumped at it.

"When this came up (to move to this location), even though we knew we would have to be dipping into our savings, I felt it was a better use of the public funds," she added. "I just hoped we wouldn't have to dip into our savings quite this early, (but) we didn't know what our expenses were going to be (here) or what the economy would be."

Part of the "people's money better spent" at the new building includes six computers with internet capability, as opposed to the one at the old building, in which a patron had to stand, as well as an expansion of the children's area, and "being out in front of the public, being on the main street."

Board Vice President Mary Frost also said they get a lot more activity at the library then they used to, which includes not only book readers and computer users, but a place for student tutoring, as well as a variety of clubs and groups to meet. Since moving to their new location, Berman said they've seen an 18 percent library use increase.

"We have 2,400 library cardholders out of 2,500 households in Addison Township," she noted.

Regarding the millage, Board Treasurer James Baldiga said the new, additional millage will help them regain "a sense of security."

"We've been chipping away at our savings a little bit every year and it doesn't take much imagination to project those zeroing out in the not too distant future," he said. "If you look and it's still a work in progress the annual year comparison the money coming in is going down, down, down - our expenses are going up which would mean we're going to hit our rainy day savings even more."

Berman agreed.

"The fund balance may last us three or four years, but we're getting closer and closer and we're taking more and more out of it each year," she added.

In 2009, the library had a reserve fund of $402,207, in 2010 they had to use $5,713 and in 2011, they used $29,455 to cover expenditures. For 2014, they are estimating another $43,000 to cover expenditures, which will leave them with $217,000 remaining in the library's reserves.

Berman said they are "hopeful" voters will approve the additional millage.

"We hope we show our value on an ongoing basis in the community. We try to provide a wide-range of resources that include entertainment, education and access to information resources, as well as programming that appeals to the community and helps in things like education," she said. "I think that people value our services and can see that we don't really want to ask for more money, but we want to continue providing the good services we always have."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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