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Library millage to come before voters on August ballot

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 19, 2016

FERNDALE — The August primary election is around the corner, and with it comes a slew of ballot proposals in areas all around the state.

One proposal that will have strong implications for a Ferndale institution is a millage vote for the Ferndale Area District Library.

The millage, as it reads in the ballot proposal, would levy a “millage in an amount not to exceed 3.50 mills ($3.50 on each $1,000 of taxable value) against all taxable property within the Ferndale Area District Library district for a period of ten (10) years, 2017 to 2026.”

“The estimate of the revenue the District Library will collect if the millage is approved and levied by the District Library in the 2017 calendar year is approximately $1,799,000,” the millage language reads.

Library Director Jessica Keyser said getting the millage passed would be the last step in the library’s reformation as a district library, and the millage would replace the current millage funding in July 2017. The library has been levying 1.88 mills of the 2 mills authorized in 2007 due to Headlee rollbacks.

It’s important (the millage passes) because we have been utilizing money from our fund balance just to operate at the current level, and our current level is a diminished level of service,” Keyser said. “In 2014, because of declining revenues, we had to cut our hours of operation and eliminate some staff members. So, this new millage will allow us to restore those hours, as well as increase our hours.”

If the millage were to pass, Keyser said, the library possibly would make up to three new hires.

“We would be open on Sundays as well,” she said. “We would actually be open seven days a week, and we would be able to provide more of the programs and services the community has told us they want from the library.

“Depending on whether we hire part-time or full-time (employees), that number three could fluctuate, but (it would be) enough people to fully operate the library seven days a week.”

Friends of the Ferndale Library President Janelle Rogers said she’s in full support of the millage after seeing what the last millage did for the library.

“I look at what the last millage did and what it brought to the library, and everything that they’ve been able to bring since then because of it,” she said of the millage passed in 2007, which helped fund renovations to the library and added staff.

Rogers said she isn’t sure how the millage passage would affect the Friends, which is the fundraising arm of the library.

“I don’t know necessarily how these changes will affect it,” she said. “It could affect us in the sense that there will be more hours open, which would lead to more opportunities for programming, which could lead to more things that the Friends could do in support of that.”

Keyser has been visiting different community groups, giving presentations on what the millage would do, and while she’s heard mostly supportive things, the only complaint she’s heard isn’t about the library specifically, but about how there are so many millages now on the ballot.

“Those are all, in my opinion, very worthwhile, valuable services that are worth funding, and I’m hopeful that opinion is shared by the majority of the people,” she said. “But I do know that it impacts people’s household budgets, and if you’re on a tight budget, asking somebody to increase their tax bill is a big request.

“I’m really hopeful when people look at the millage proposal that the library has on the ballot, they’ll look at it on its own merits and make a decision based on that,” Keyser said.