Library seeks millage increase

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 17, 2019

 The Rochester Hills Public Library is seeking a millage increase of 0.31 mills.

The Rochester Hills Public Library is seeking a millage increase of 0.31 mills.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Rochester Hills Public Library plans to ask voters to approve a millage hike in November that officials say would put the library on solid financial footing.

“This is going to be on the ballot in Rochester Hills this year,” Library Director Christine Lind Hage said.

Although the costs to run the library effectively have risen over the years, Hage said the library’s millage has not changed since it was approved by voters almost a century ago, in 1924.

“The 1924 millage that was passed by the then-residents of Avon Township was for 1 mill in perpetuity — and that means it does not have to be renewed — and we did not levy that entire mill until 1978,” Hage said. “We did that because the Headlee Amendment came in, so we wanted to start at the top and not roll back from where we were.”

In a nutshell, Headlee requires a local unit of government to reduce its millage rate when annual growth on existing property values is greater than the rate of inflation, according to the Michigan Municipal League.

Hage said the library needs additional revenue to continue to offer high-quality services and programs, cover building needs, and keep collections updated.

The library serves the residents of Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township. While all three municipalities pay tax money — 1 mill each — to operate the library, Hage noted that the communities of Rochester and Oakland Township do not have a vote on the library board, since they contract with the library for services.

In Rochester Hills, the 1 mill is currently levied at 0.75 mill due to the Headlee rollback, which Hage said amounts to approximately $2.6 million for the library. The library board is requesting an increase of 0.31 mill for 10 years in November.

In the two contract communities, Hage said, the annual payment adjusted for Headlee is also currently levied at less than a mill, which she said amounts to approximately $470,000 from the general fund in Rochester and about $803,000 from Oakland Township, paid for via a millage.

“The library can only ask the voters of Rochester Hills for a tax increase,” Hage said. “We serve Rochester and Oakland Township through contract.”

Hage recently appeared before the Rochester City Council to inform council members of the library’s decision to seek the millage increase in Rochester Hills.

“I’m not going to say I’m ... surprised this is coming,” Rochester City Councilman Ben Giovanelli said. “I’ve heard rumblings about it for years. I knew it was going to be here eventually.”

The Rochester City Council is currently considering the library’s request for an increase in funding. City Manager Blaine Wing said the city has a few options — it could pay the additional requested amount from the city’s general fund; ask Rochester voters to consider a 0.31 mill-library tax; or ask its voters to consider paying for all of the library costs via a millage.

Rochester Finance Director Anthony Moggio said a 0.31-mill increase equates to an additional $216,000 payment for the city of Rochester, according to early estimates.

Hage said she plans to give presentations to the Rochester Hills City Council, as well as the Oakland Township Library Board, in the coming months.

The Oakland Township Library Board is expected to decide if it will put the proposed increase before voters in June or July.

Come November, if the millage passes in Rochester Hills but does not pass in one or both of the contracted areas, Hage said that whichever municipality does not approve the increase would see a reduction in services.

“If (they) choose not to pass it, they’ll have a differential in services,” she said.

On the other hand, if the millage fails in Rochester Hills but does pass in the other two communities, she said it would be unlikely that the library would seek the additional funding.

“Rochester Hills residents pay 1 mill, Headlee adjusted. In Rochester, the same, and Oakland Township, the same. If it did not pass in Rochester Hills and it passed in the other two communities, I could not see us asking to levy it. And if voters passed it, that doesn’t mean (they) have to levy it. (They) could levy it at any portion within the next 10 years,” Hage said.

The library has formed a campaign committee to get the word out to voters.

For more information, visit www.rhpl.com.

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