Utica library millage passes overwhelmingly

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 3, 2016

 Utica voters approved a millage increase Aug. 2 to support the Utica Public Library.

Utica voters approved a millage increase Aug. 2 to support the Utica Public Library.

File photo


The voters have spoken, and it is apparent they prioritize their local public library.

Utica residents voted 74.4 percent to 25.6 percent — or 462 to 159 — in favor of increasing the library millage by up to 0.4 mills for a period of 10 years, for a total of 1.2418 mills ($1.24 per $1,000 of taxable value) to be levied in July 2017. That first levy was estimated to collect $72,255.50.

Utica Clerk Beth Ricketts said the election was slow and turnout was low, but those conditions seemed to be the norm for primary elections.

“(The library millage is) huge,” Ricketts said. “We’re happy about that. We can keep our library open.”

Library Director Marsha Doege said the library had been in “survival mode” the last several years.

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.

Kelly Calandrino, a Utica resident and library board member, canvased door to door in hopes of raising awareness of the millage.

“We really need it,” Calandrino said after voting for the millage at the library Aug. 2. “We’ve cut hours. We’ve cut services. And we just want to maintain what we have and try to build a little bit more and bring some children’s programming back.”

Because of the Headlee Amendment, she said the library suffered rollback after rollback in the amount of property taxes it could collect, so it has been trying to do what it can with what it has.

“We’ve lost quite a bit of funding, and technology is expensive,” Calandrino said. “We’re trying to keep up with technology. We provide free Wi-Fi — if you’re sitting out here, you can jump on Wi-Fi courtesy of the library, and it’s something that, even when we’re closed, people can use.”

She said the librarians know their patrons and can make suggestions when new material comes out.

“Our library really has the small-town feel,” she said. “(The positive feedback I’ve experienced has been) really exciting to me. I thought it would be a harder fight, because we’ve been asking people to open their wallets.”

Utica residents Alexandria Mazzeo and Shannon Krupske also voted for the library millage.

“I thought it was important,” Mazzeo said. “It sounded like they needed some updated computer equipment and things like that for the community, so that was one of my main concerns.”