Troy voters to decide library millage proposal

By: Eric Czarnik | Troy Times | Published October 7, 2020

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TROY — Troy city officials are encouraging voters to read up on an upcoming ballot proposal to renew and increase the city’s library millage.

During an Oct. 1 millage town hall virtual meeting, held on Zoom, Troy Assistant City Manager Bob Bruner and Troy Library Director Cathy Russ outlined the library millage proposal that is on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Bruner said the library has stayed open six days a week since July 2010 due to the Great Recession. In response to the city’s explanation of financial need, Troy residents approved a 0.7-mill dedicated millage in 2011 and renewed the millage in 2015, he said. That 0.7 mill has gradually declined to 0.6805 mill due to Michigan’s Headlee rollbacks, Russ explained.

The current millage is set to expire June 30. City officials said the library needs a bigger millage since the library needs some maintenance and upgrades. And according to Bruner, currently an estimated $400,000 shortfall is budgeted for the fiscal year ending 2021, reducing the total rainy-day fund at the end of that fiscal year to under $28,000.

“So even just maintaining six-day service is not sustainable on that old library millage,” Bruner said.

The new library millage proposal seeks up to 1.1 mills for 10 years. According to the proposal, it would raise almost $5.79 million in its first year.

Officials said that if the proposal passes, it would restore seven-day library service, and pay for building maintenance and upgrades — such as heating, cooling and ventilation systems; window replacements; and elevator repairs. Bruner said the library also wants upgrades like new furniture, a space designed for teens, study rooms and a makerspace.

According to Russ, makerspaces are a library trend and are full of tools where users can learn skills and apply them. She added that many people, especially teens, have frequently requested a makerspace.

“There is equipment for use by the public, so you can teach yourself how to sew, so maybe we have a sewing machine,” Russ said. “There might be a bank of computers with Photoshop and all kinds of tech tools that are in use these days. ... Many libraries have 3D printers.”

Bruner said the new proposal, if it passes, would cost the average residential Troy taxpayer $11.92 per month, starting next summer. The city has an online library millage estimator that lets users calculate their payment based on their individual circumstances.

But he said the library’s future would be jeopardized if voters reject the proposal.

“There is no library budget without a library millage,” he said. “The library would likely have to close because it’s unlikely that the city could reduce general fund spending to replace the $3.5 million annually provided by the current library millage.”

During the virtual town hall, a poster called Anonymous Attendee asked why the city went ahead with the 1.1-mill plan instead of other 0.9-mill and 1-mill options that were studied. Officials said the 0.9-mill plan wouldn’t have been able to fund library upgrades.

Russ elaborated on the reason behind the pick.

“The 0.9-mills rate would have funded the library at its current level of service, which is six days a week,” she explained.  “And one of the things that came out in the survey, in the focus groups, and certainly that I’ve been hearing for the past 10 years, is people really want seven-day service. ... So I think council wanted to be responsive to that request.”

Russ said that if the proposal passes, the library also needs to hire a couple more full-time staffers, as well as part-time staffers, to handle the responsibilities of seven-day service.

Find out more about the library millage proposal by visiting www.troypl.org. To use the Library Millage Estimator, visit http://apps.troymi.gov/LibraryMillageEstimator.

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