Utica library to consider seeking millage increase

City Council approves up to half-mill increase for August ballot

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 20, 2016


UTICA — The Utica Public Library has slimmed its hours, staff and services in recent years, and Director Marsha Doege said she plans to submit more reductions in her next budget, including taking a salary cut herself and slashing hours further.

“The 2008 debacle hit the library hard, along with the erosion of mills and loss of personal property taxes — just a whole lot of things that made us struggle,” Doege said. “We’ve been in survival mode, but now it’s to the point where we need to request help from the taxpayers.”

On April 12, the Utica City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing the library board to seek a proposal for a millage increase not to exceed 0.5 mills on the Aug. 2 ballot.

“We encouraged the library board to go for an additional up-to-half-a-mill increase in order to continue the good services the library provides,” Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said.

At press time, Doege said the library board will determine a course of action at its next meeting, which is set for 5 p.m. April 20 at Gibbing Room of the library, 7530 Auburn Road. The deadline to submit proposals for the August ballot is May 10.

While the economy is starting to rebound, Michigan’s Headlee Amendment and Proposal A limit the amount of revenue that taxing jurisdictions can collect from an increase in property values.

Noonan said Headlee rollbacks have decreased the library’s millage, which used to stand at 1 mill, over the years. With another rollback this year, the library’s current millage fell to 0.84 mills.

“What the library is looking to do, primarily, is to kind of have an equivalent of a Headlee override,” Doege said. “The board is looking to get us back to a mill and then just a tad above that to help the library survive.”

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

The average Utica resident currently pays approximately $44 per year for library services, Doege said. With a 0.3-mill increase and based on the average, residents would pay $15.74 more per year, and with a 0.5-mill increase, they would pay $26.17 more per year, she said.

“We appreciate that the taxpayers are already paying a tax for the library,” Doege said. “We’re not trying to ask for an undue burden, but it kind of boils down to (necessity).”

If the Utica Public Library were to fold, Doege said Utica families would have to purchase a $200 nonresident card to frequent surrounding communities’ libraries. The Utica library’s existence and membership in the Suburban Library Cooperative is what currently allows residents to use nearby libraries’ services for free, she said.

“We haven’t worked a millage before, so it’s a learning experience,” Doege said. “We’ve been discussing it off and on for the last couple of years and kept hoping that things would turn around, but they haven’t.”

If the library board opts to seek a millage increase, Doege said the next step would be for the city attorney to draft language for the ballot proposal, to submit the ballot proposal to Macomb County, and for volunteers to begin canvassing the area. Once the proposal is on the ballot, she said, the library couldn’t take a stance on the issue.

“We’re small, but we’re quality,” she said.