Library board to ask voters for additional operating tax

By: Jeremy Carroll | Online Only | Published January 14, 2011

CLAWSON — Two years after voters approved a tax increase to expand the Blair Memorial Library, the library’s Board of Trustees is asking voters for a 0.3-mill tax increase for operations during the May 3 election.

City officials said because of shrinking property values, the current 1 mill collected to fund library operations isn’t enough to cover costs, and even after hours have been cut and the new book budget was scaled back, it’s not nearly enough to cover the losses.

“We’ve had massive losses in taxable value,” City Manager Mark Pollock said. “It’s going to create massive deficits.”

He said the city had a total taxable value of $410 million four years ago, and this year it will likely be $330 million.

The Blair Memorial Library hasn’t been totally self-sufficient, with the city picking up a small portion of their budget. But because of an expected 10 percent loss in property values that supplemental help would be $90,000 to $100,000 this year, something the city simply can’t afford, Pollock said.

“It’s going to be an ugly budget,” he said.

Eva Joyce Burns, president of the Board of Trustees, said going back to the voters for an additional millage to fund operations was a very difficult decision to make.

“We want to present the figures and inform the public of what is realistic,” Burns said. “We don’t want to use scare tactics.”

City officials said if the city were forced to supplement the library operations again this year, it would likely mean library cuts and cuts to the Department of Public Works.

“We get compliments all the time about how our streets are plowed,” Pollock said. “That’s one thing you would hate to see go away because you have to lay off three people.”

A 0.3-mill tax increase would cost the average taxpayer in the city an additional $17 a year. The average taxable value of homes in the city last year was $56,000, city officials said.

The library currently has an operating budget of $418,000, Pollock said.

Both Burns and Pollock said they expect opposition to the proposal.

“We are going to have people out there who will curse us and scream at us, but we’re really trying to make the library self-sufficient,” Pollock said.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Carroll at jcarroll@candgnews.com or at (586) 279-1110.