In an effort to gain the support from the public, officials held an informational meeting Wednesday to educate voters about why the organization will .
About 50 people attended in addition to several library officials, including library board trustees John Minnis and Ed Frederickson, the board president Brian Garves, Director Vickey Bloom and millage committee chairman Ben Burns.
The hour-long session included a power point presentation as well as a brief question-and-answer period, during which audience members could submit their questions in writing to Garves and Bloom.
Bloom presented information about the library system's history, the evolution of the branches and relevant statistics regarding the traffic at each. She also talked about some of the system's popular programs, such as , storytime, homebound outreach and online tutor help. She also highlighted some of the organization's initiatives including the digitization of the dating back decades, the , as well as the ability to borrow downloadable books from the library--a service that has been popular and growing.
Bloom, Ted Everingham and Garves all provided a variety of numbers about the foot traffic each branch recieves, the circulation rate, the computer-usage rate and more.
Library officials have repeatedly said they've made all of the cuts possible without trimming the hours and services available to patrons and that if the proposed 0.7 millage request doesn't pass, the offerings will be significantly impacted.
The proposal is for the millage to be in place for eight years, taking effect in January 2013. At the end of the eight years, library officials will reevaluate whether or not the millage is still necessary and return to voters again if they believe it is, Garves previously told Patch.
The library system has trimmed its full time staff 25 employees, who are assisted by 23 trained part-time employees, Bloom said. There are seven fewer full-time employees on staff. Wages have been frozen for two years and librarians will be making less money in 2012 than they did in 1994 as employees in the school system, she said.
Meanwhile, the three-branches combined have more than 660,000 visits annually, and the ever-dropping property values are diminishing the system's budget significantly, the officials said, noting that 91 percent of the library system's budget comes from taxes.
The millage increase that will be on the February ballot means a homeowner of a house with a value of $150,000, would pay about $52.50 more in taxes a year, Garves said.
In addition to trimming staff to what the librarians have described as a skeleton crew, the library system changed its retiree healthcare options a number of years ago so that the library system is not saddled with paying it. The board had previously begun its campaign for the millage with the goal of on the and branches, which was taken on before housing values plummeted to ensure the services being offered will remain in tact.
However, in the newest campaign, organizers are not specifying that the money will go to debt service only that it will support the library system to ensure funding.
While most in attendance seemed to be in favor of the library, questions indicated there were some questioning the request.
Among the questions were:
- why the millage request was delayed from the original plan of the November election to the February ballot
- how the library system would "justify" its request considering many of the municipalities, such as
- why more volunteers are not used to help staff the libraries
- whether the use of the computers by non-residents is monitored
- whether there would be an effort to spread the word about the millage request through the Parent Teacher Organization Council
- is there hope of it passing
At the end of the meeting, Garves encouraged those who wanted to volunteer to help the millage committee to have a brief meeting in the auditorium of the . Several people gathered to volunteer.
This story was altered Thursday Dec. 8, 2011, to add additional information regarding the use of the millage funds if approved.