Voters to decide fate of Harrison Township library millage

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published October 26, 2022

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — This November, Harrison Township Public Library officials are asking voters to renew an existing millage with an increase to pay for expanded services.

Currently set at 0.5 mills (50 cents on each $1,000 of taxable property value), the renewal, if passed, would be increased to 0.8 mills (80 cents on each $1,000 of taxable property value) from 2022 to 2031. According to the language of the proposal, it is estimated the library would collect $869,745 in 2022 if the increased rate is set.

“We are seeking a higher millage because of the needs that we need to address on our library,” said Melissa Goins, director of the Harrison Township Public Library. “There are still some things where we fall short and that we hope to serve the community better, and those needs were discovered after doing a needs assessment as well as a public survey.”

The four shortcomings the library seeks to address are its current outdated technology, restrictive hours, few senior and children’s programs, and the addition of quiet spaces for people to read, work and perform other tasks.

The hours issue stems from the library’s typical daytime operations. It is normally open from late morning (10 a.m. or 11 a.m.) and closes at 5 p.m. Goins says the current hours have prevented seniors from accessing the library in the morning and working members of the community from accessing it after work, according to the public survey.

“This millage is another growth step, so that we can continue to grow,” Goins said. “We are still very much a startup library. We don’t have the hours that most libraries have; we don’t have the staff that most libraries have. We don’t have the size of collections that we need; we don’t have the size of computers that we need to serve a community the size of Harrison Township. There is still a lot of growth that we need to do in order to meet the needs of our community, and this is another step in that process.”

Other additions Goins says the increased millage would allow for include local historical preservation and genealogy services, though these long-term goals would require more staff.

“We are going now because there is no election cycle in 2023, so that is why we decided to go in 2022,” Goins said.

The decision to hold the election during the 2022 cycle is likely to avoid a special election in 2023.

“Usually, we see (millage renewals) either on the primary or general (election ballots) during these even-year election cycles,” Adam Wit, Harrison Township clerk, said. “If there isn’t another election, there are provisions to call for a special election, but the person that calls for that special election has to bear the cost of it.”

Opposition to the proposal has mostly taken two forms: opposition to increased taxation and a belief that the Harrison Township Public Library is still the volunteer-based library it was in 2009.

“Originally, (the library) opened when the Macomb County Library closed,” Goins said. “The Macomb County Library closed, and so that allowed for donations. We got donations from there to originally start the library.”

From those original donations, the Harrison Township Public Library was able to start on a volunteer basis, not supported by a millage, in 2009. From its opening until 2014, the library was supported by donations, $5 library card fees and other forms of fundraising like bake sales, the proceeds from which were used to pay for books and other materials and to keep the library functional.

Once the 2014 millage passed and the library was funded at a rate of 0.5 mills, it ceased to be a volunteer operation.

“(The passing of the original millage) allowed us to buy materials for the library and hire paid staff and do library programs that weren’t free programs or donated programs, and continued to grow in that way,” Goins said.

If the millage proposal fails, Goins says the library will “be OK until 2024,” but that the library will “be in big trouble, because the library needs funding in order to continue to operate.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Eligible voters can check sample ballots, find important dates and obtain information about how to register for absentee or in-person voting at ctions.