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Harrison Township

May 13, 2014

Library millage proposal to appear on August ballot

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Supporters of the Harrison Township Public Library are hoping the third time’s the charm.

After two failed requests, one for a taxpayer-funded library in 2004 and one for improved services at the current volunteer-run library in 2013, local supporters are going back to the voters.

Carole Wolf, president of the Harrison Township Library Board, said they received enough support to get yet another millage proposal on this year’s Aug. 5 primary ballot.

The request is for a 10-year 1/2 mill increase to provide funds for the establishment of a public library. The revenue from the millage will be disbursed into a library fund that is under the exclusive control of an independent public library board. In short, it would allow library card holders the ability to use services at libraries in all those within the Suburban Library Cooperative.

“We would have access to all 21 libraries in the cooperate. ... The suburban cooperate is state funded,” Wolf said.

In addition, passage would generate approximately $413,000 in tax dollars per year for the library, which would allow the library to offer more services such as regular guest speakers, more magazines and newspapers, and audio books. It would also allow access to e-books — those items that she said are currently tougher to come by. Hours of operation would increase from the current 22 hours per week to 40 hours per week, and the library would be run by paid employees and not solely by volunteers.

“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had people with library degrees volunteering over the years,” said Wolf. “But some of our volunteers are moving away and can no longer help out. We’ll be needing more volunteers.”

A 1-mill proposal, in perpetuity, failed nine years ago with 6,615 votes against (53.4 percent) and 5,759 votes in favor (46.5 percent). A scaled-down proposal, the same one that will be on the ballot this year, failed by 53 votes in last year’s primary.

Passage of a 1/2-mill proposal would mean a $50 annual tax increase for a taxpayer owning a home with a cash value of $200,000 and a taxable value of $100,000. A taxpayer with a home taxable value of $40,000 would pay an additional $20 annually in taxes.

Township Supervisor Ken Verkest said he and his family utilize the library regularly and they see how important the services it provides are. However, not everyone feels the same way about the library or the need to expand the library with a tax increase.

“It was a close vote,” he said, referring to the 2013 primary. “There are some people who are passionate about the need for a library and others that feel there is no need for a library.

“As a resident, I am a supporter of the library, but my opinion is voiced at the ballot box, not as a supervisor.”

Wolf said supporters will be more aggressive about getting the word out about the millage this summer, including going door-to-door.

“It seems like the people of Harrison Township respond better to that,” she said.

The township will, in future weeks, be considering adding a ballot proposal to the Nov. 4 general election: a 1.25-mill, 20-year proposal for local road improvements. The Board of Trustees will discuss the issue further at their May 27 meeting or their June 9 meeting.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Julie Snyder at jsnyder@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1039.