Library millage to appear on August ballot

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 27, 2016

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UTICA — On April 20, the Utica Public Library board voted unanimously to pursue placing a 0.4-mill increase on the city’s ballot for the Aug. 2 election.

The library’s current millage rate is 0.84 mills. The average residential taxpayer in Utica currently pays approximately $44 per year for library services. With a 0.4-mill increase and based on the average, residents would pay $20.94 more per year.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

Utica Public Library Director Marsha Doege said the library’s first and only millage was introduced in 1949. Since then, Michigan’s Headlee Amendment and Proposal A have limited the amount of revenue that taxing jurisdictions can collect from an increase in property values.

Because of Headlee rollbacks over the years, Doege said the Utica Public Library’s millage rate eroded to 0.84 mills.

In recent years, the library has significantly slimmed its hours, staff and services.

“We’ve cut everything we could cut,” said Doege, who is the library’s only full-time employee. She said she also plans to submit more reductions in her next budget, including taking a salary cut and slashing hours further.

On April 12, the Utica City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the library board to seek a proposal for a millage increase not to exceed 0.5 mills on the August ballot.

“Our board actually went with a 0.4 millage and decided to split the difference between 0.3 and 0.5, (which were previously being considered),” Doege said. “(The 0.4-mill increase would) bring in about $72,000 (to the library per year).”

As the library director, Doege said she is present at library board meetings, but she is not allowed to cast a vote. The board has five seats but is currently down a member, she said.

Doege said the next step is for City Attorney Jim McGrail to draft language for the proposal. After that, the City Council would have to approve the proposal, and then the proposal would need to be filed with the Macomb County Clerk’s Office before the May 10 deadline.

Because the next City Council meeting is set for May 10, Doege said the City Council is set to vote on the proposal at a special May 3 City Council meeting.

Once the proposal is filed, Doege said she expects a volunteer committee will be created to get the word out to voters about the benefits of approving the library millage.

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said the City Council would have approved the proposal at its April 12 meeting, had the wording been established.

“We’re just trying to comply with all the rules,” Noonan said. “I think (a library millage increase) is absolutely necessary. The Utica Public Library was established in the middle of the Depression in the ’30s, and it’s been a great service to the community.”

She said she and Treasurer Philip Paternoster have encouraged the library’s leadership to seek a ballot proposal for the last four years.

“With the inappropriate allocation of revenue sharing from the state and the Headlee Amendment and the way it works, the poor library has had rollback after rollback after rollback,” Noonan said. “I’m completely in favor.”

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