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One-mill tax levy secures library’s place in Roseville

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 31, 2011

 The library offers a huge selection of books for all reading levels, as well as movies. Here, 8-year-old Ashley DeRocco takes advantage of both, renting “iCarly” and checking out a chapter book and two travel books.

The library offers a huge selection of books for all reading levels, as well as movies. Here, 8-year-old Ashley DeRocco takes advantage of both, renting “iCarly” and checking out a chapter book and two travel books.

Photo by Sara Kandel

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ROSEVILLE — The Roseville Public Library will remain open. The council voted unanimously Aug. 23 for a 1-mill tax levy that will go directly to the library.

Designating the mill in that way allows the city to free up much needed money in the general fund and secures the library’s place in the future, officials said.

“Generally, the other cities who have done this have had success,” said City Manager Steve Truman. “Their libraries have been in good shape despite the tough economic times.”

The city was able add a mill for the library under Public Act 164.

Public Act 164 of 1877 authorizes cities to establish or maintain public libraries through a city council raised tax levy or library fund above the city’s tax limitation. Nearby cities St. Clair Shores, Harper Woods, Eastpointe, Utica and Troy have all done the same — designating their libraries as Act 164 libraries and raising a small tax levy specifically for them.

Not all the residents in attendance at the Aug. 23 meeting supported the tax increase to save the library, which otherwise is only budgeted through Dec. 31 of this year.

Resident James Goldwater spoke out against the tax increase, saying it will harm residents when the economy goes back up. But council didn’t see it that way.

“This doesn’t tie council’s hand in the future,” said Truman. “And when the economy gets better, I suggest we do roll it (the 1-mill tax levy) back into the city’s general operating funds.”

The city isn’t required to roll back the levy, but Mayor John Chirkun seconded Truman’s statement, saying it was something the council had talked about in the future, but said for now the tax levy is needed to keep the library’s doors open.

“I figured it out for my house,” Chirkun said. “And for us, it will be around $70 (a year) — that’s like what I drink in pop in a year, and the library is worth it.”

One mill is equal to $1,000 in a home’s taxable value, which is one-half its real market value. So for a homeowner with a $100,000 house and a taxable value of $50,000, the mill would cost them $50 a year.

Other residents complained that council just wasn’t handling it the way they should.

“Why, unlike in years past, are these mills not going on the ballot, not going to the voters?” resident Jonathon Raiss asked council at the first hearing of the public that night.

The act allows council members to raise the levy for the library without a public vote, so that is what they did, but many on council pointed out that just because it’s not going on the November ballot doesn’t mean that they haven’t gathered the general public opinion on it.

Councilman Bill Shoemaker said he thinks people want the library to remain open. He addressed the residents speaking against it at the meeting. “I’m out there in the community quite a bit, and I hear people and there are other residents that have the same concerns, but I believe there are more residents who are concerned we won’t be able to offer the same level of services,” he said.

Chirkun spoke up as well, saying that when the idea first came up, a joint Library Commission and City Council meeting was held to discuss the issue.

“The buck stops here with the seven of us,” Chirkun said. “We had a meeting, 40-50 people showed up, and not one of them said anything about not wanting this. Their biggest concern was with the library shutting down.”

The library would have to make more cuts in order to be squeezed into the city’s budget for the second part of the fiscal year if council hadn’t made this move. Already having reduced staff through attrition, having to reduce hours again, Truman indicated, would set off a domino effect that would very likely end in the library’s closing in the near future.

“Without the millage, we could possibly lose state funding,” he said. “We have to be open 50 hours a week to get that funding, and we are at that right now.”

By designating the library under Act 164, the library’s board will be able to directly utilize the incoming funds as they see fit and possibly expand hours and services. Any increase in services or hours would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2012.

Truman repeated to council something he has said a few times in the recent past — that he answers two questions when faced with these type of situations: Will it save the city money, and will it maintain or improve services? And he said in the case of the library millage, he was able to answer yes to both.

As the meeting wound down, everyone on council brought the issue up one more time — each saying in a different way that they truly believed it was what was best for the residents, current and future.

“We know times are tough,” said Councilman Sal Aiuto. “But I believe in my heart that we are making the right decision for Roseville’s long-term health. I want Roseville to stay on the map of real estate agents and continue to be a wonderful place to live.”
 

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