Troy City Council approves survey on possible library millage ballot question

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published July 7, 2020

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TROY — The Troy City Council aims to gauge residents’ thoughts on how to move forward on a request for voters to decide on a possible new library millage.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a budget amendment for the Troy Public Library for $11,000 for a community survey on the library at its June 22 meeting.

The resolution awarded the contract for community survey consulting services to Cobalt Community Research for a $12,000 business survey and a $18,000 residential survey — the topics of which will be announced later — as well as the $11,000 library survey.

Troy Assistant City Manager Robert Bruner said work will begin immediately on the library survey, with the resident and business surveys to follow.

He explained that the library survey will be two pages mailed to “a couple of thousand” homes, and also will be available online.

The council must, by law, submit ballot language before Aug. 11 for the November ballot.

The current 0.7-mill voter-approved library tax expires in 2021.

In November 2015, Troy voters approved a renewal of a five-year, 0.7-mill levy to fund the Troy Public Library. The measure was approved 8,433 “yes” votes to 3,492 “no” votes. Voters first approved the library millage in August 2011, when 58% of voters were in favor of it.

The millage generates about $3 million per year.

In a presentation to the council at the June 22 meeting, which was conducted electronically, Bruner said the current library millage will not cover the full cost of operating the library for 55 hours — which is how it currently operates — in 2020-21, when budget expenditures are projected to be $4.128 million.That would take a millage rate of 0.8 mills.

Bruner noted that comparable libraries are open an average 68 hours per week. He said the current city millage rate of just under 10 mills will be rolled back in the future, when property values increase faster than inflation.

Bruner said 0.9 mills would raise $4.6 million per year and would provide for $600,000 in new items for the library collection each year, while maintaining a desirable fund balance and providing for building upkeep.

A levy of 1 mill would raise $5.1 million and would cost the average Troy homeowner — with a home that has a taxable value of $129,153 — $129.15 per year. This would provide for upgrades to the library, staffing for seven-day service, building maintenance, and $600,000 per year for new items for the library collection. It would also maintain a desirable fund balance.

If voters approve a library millage, they would be assessed the new rate in summer 2021.

Bruner noted that 10 years is a pretty common term for library millages in Oakland County.

“Five years isn’t a very long time,” City Manager Mark Miller said to the council regarding the duration of library millages.

Troy Public Library Director Cathy Russ said the shorter duration of a five-year millage makes it hard to prepare for capital repairs to the building.

The council took no action on the ballot language for the library millage at the June 22 meeting, awaiting feedback from the survey and virtual focus groups before moving forward.