Royal Oak Public Library millage passes overwhelmingly

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 8, 2022

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ROYAL OAK — On Aug. 2, Royal Oak voters in the city’s 24 precincts passed a millage proposal for the Royal Oak Public Library with 71.75% — or 11,993 votes — in favor and 28.25% — or 4,722 votes — against, according to unofficial election results posted by the Oakland County Elections Division.

Library Director Sandy Irwin said 32.44% of Royal Oak’s registered voters voted on the library millage, and that she and the entire library staff are all “very excited.”

“We feel so grateful that our community values their library, because it is their library,” Irwin said. “By saying ‘yes,’ it just shows that a strong library in their community is important, and I think the success of the millage reflects on the staff.”

She said that the residents would not have approved the millage if the Royal Oak library’s staff were not doing a “good job.”

“Kudos to the (library) board, who really sets the direction of the library,” Irwin said. “Now that the millage has passed, (we need to focus on the future and) look at a strategic plan to see what areas we need to work on and start developing plans for that.”

She said the current discussion includes facility improvements, specifically a new roof. Staff is currently investigating sustainable options such as a solar or other type of “green” roof that is viable and cost-friendly for the library’s budget, she said.

“Being able to raise the millage a little bit helps us do all the things that we haven’t been able to do over the years,” Irwin said. “There are some outdoor (improvements, such as) concrete and a railing needs to be replaced. … It’s the things that keep everything functioning.”

She added that staff is looking at creating a capital improvement plan with community input to find out what Royal Oak residents want to see in their library, as well as investing more in its collections.

“When we did a strategic plan a couple years ago in 2019, we did a very broad community survey at that time,” Irwin said. “The strategic plan goes through 2024.”

She specifically thanked the volunteers who worked on the millage campaign.

“As government (employees), we can’t work directly on the campaign,” Irwin said. “We had a very dedicated group of volunteers in our community that were on top of social media and getting signs out and all of that,” Irwin said. “(Without the volunteers), the (passage of the millage) may not have happened. They were diligent and informed so they could answer questions.”

The language of the proposal read: “Shall the City of Royal Oak, Oakland County, Michigan, be authorized to levy a millage annually in an amount not to exceed 1.0 mill ($1.00 on each $1,000 of taxable value), of which .8837 mill is a renewal of the previously authorized millage that expires in 2022 and .1163 mill is new additional millage, against all taxable property within the City for a period of ten (10) years, 2023 to 2032 inclusive, for the purpose of operating, maintaining and equipping the Royal Oak Public Library and for all other library purposes authorized by law? The estimate of the revenue the City will collect in the first year of the levy (2023) if the millage is approved is approximately $3,266,000. By law, revenue from the millage will be disbursed to the Royal Oak Public Library and a portion of the revenue from the millage may be subject to capture by the City of Royal Oak Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.”

Irwin said the library does not receive any money from the city’s general fund, so it is supported primarily through the millage, as well as through fees and fines, grants, donations, and fundraisers by the Friends of the Royal Oak Public Library.

The millage supports the library’s programming, operating expenses, collections, equipment, and ongoing maintenance of the building, which opened in April 1962, according to the library.

The library resumed its in-person programming in June after shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and undergoing a staggered approach to serve the community, including curbside pickup and virtual programming.

According to the library, the millage money will help purchase materials for print and digital collections; maintain the building and its systems, including concrete and railing repairs; replace the roof; continue access to databases; connect with the community outside the building, including those who are homebound and students in local schools; and pay for staffing.

As stated in the ballot language, “a portion of the revenue from the millage may be subject to capture by the City of Royal Oak Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.” Brownfields are properties that are being redeveloped but may require some environmental remediation, such as former gas stations.

City Manager Paul Brake said money collected from the library’s millage that supported brownfields was less than half of 1% of the total amount levied last year.

“Homeowners and taxpayers will not be paying toward brownfield redevelopment,” Brake said in a prior interview. “Commercial properties that have a brownfield are paying toward the captured portion only to reimburse the brownfield redevelopment that has occurred at that site.”

Brake added that the city has about nine remaining redevelopment projects that are being reimbursed for cleanup costs.

“It’s important for the library to be self-sustaining, to not only cover the costs but really to meet the changing demands that are made of libraries,” he said. “Library services are more than checking out books. They include children’s programs to a maker space where you can rent power equipment and everything imaginable.”

For more information, call the Royal Oak Public Library at (248) 246-3700 or visit