In a concise, informative presentation to the council Monday, trustees of the asked for support and for council members to help them spread the word about the value of libraries.
The millage increase would be a maximum rate of 0.7, or $70 for a house with a state equalized value of $100,000, said trustee Brian Garves. The millage increase is intended to help the library pay off its debts from the construction of new buildings after moving out of the schools in 2003.
Garves told the council the intent for the millage increase is simply to pay for the debt and nothing more. He also said the libraries do not have an alternative option. If voters do not pass the millage increase, the libraries will have to change significantly, he said.
The libraries already have cut out some services that set the organization apart from other libraries, including visits by authors. The trustees also held a public hearing in early February where users were allowed to say what services they use and like, or even those they dislike.
Trustee Jenny Nolan said the hearing netted all positive feedback about all services, so it didn't help generate a 'to cut' list. The library will be posting a survey for customer feedback on the library's website by mid-April, however, she said. They are also taking suggestions via email now: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, they've already reduced staff through attrition and eliminated part-timers. Further staff reductions would mean a reduction in services and/or hours, Garves said, noting the librarians field more than 250 reference inquiries daily.
A City resident attending the meeting questioned Garves about replacing librarians with volunteers to save money. Garves and other trustees explained that volunteers would not be able to provide the extent or knowledgeable help a professionally trained librarian can, noting it is a specialized job.
The millage increase would last through 2029, when the bonds for the construction are paid in full. Garves noted that the trend of Michigan voters has been to support libraries, which another trustee said helps home values. Approximately 29 of 33 millages statewide have passed, Garves said.
Garves asked the council to help spread the word and act as advocates for the library millage. The trustees are trying to get the word out to the community before the formal millage increase is submitted as a ballot item.