Library to seek two millages

ALPENA – The Alpena County Library will be asking voters to renew a millage for 0.75 mill for operations during the November general election. In addition there will be a secondary request of 0.25 mill over five years which will be used to supplement a loss of revenue from personal property tax and declining property values. The second millage will be used for future maintenance and repairs to the aging facility.

Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank said the library doesn’t want to ask the voters for more funds, but that the current state of finances and the changes to the tax law will have a large impact on the income the library will receive.

“This is not a decision we made lightly,” Magness-Eubank said. “These losses, totaling approximately $150,000 annually, are significant enough to substantially alter the services we offer. We believe the consequences are significant enough to warrant asking the taxpayers for additional funding.”

If the millage requests are to fail, Magness-Eubank said there could be drastic changes to how the library is currently operated.

“We will not be able to cut expenses without cutting back hours of operation, programs for children, cultural programs, investment in technology,” Magness-Eubank said. “The exact mix of cuts have not yet been determined by the board, but there is not an area of the library that would be untouched.”

The building will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year and Magness-Eubank said its age is beginning to show. Plans and funding need to be in place to maintain and repair structural shortfalls as they occur.

“It is nearing the end of the building’s functional life expectancy or at the start of the age when things break,” Magness-Eubank said. “We are projecting a minimum expense of $500,000 of extraordinary repairs over the course of the next decade and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were closer to $1 million. With additional revenue I believe we will be able to maintain the building in good working order. Without additional funding for the needs that come, we are relying on luck for a decade of facility management. That seems irresponsible to us.”

Eubank said a smaller millage was considered, but realized that if a smaller amount was approved, there would still need to be significant changes to the way the library is run.

“We would then be asking the public to face a tax increase and service cuts, but expose the facility to risk,” Magness-Eubank said. “Neither one of these options seemed to be very good. We believe that while unpopular, it is irresponsible to ask for less funding than what we think we need.”

Eubank said the additional 0.25 millage would cost the average home owner about $7 and the per capita funding would be $31.82, which is less than what people in Alcona and Montmorency counties pay. He said the board decided on a five-year millage to help the library survive the revenue decline and a slow to rebound economy after the recession.

“It is the hope that the economy improves to the point that this millage will not be needed at the end of five years,” Magness-Eubank said. “This is not a promise, but a hope. We also have fundraising projects and merchandising projects under way that may generate alternate revenue sources. Neither the board or myself wish to place all of our eggs in the millage basket.”

Last year the library had more than 125,000 visits and over 10,000 people used their library card. There were over 300,000 items checked out and about 25,000 people used the public computers. Magness-Eubank said more the 15,000 took part in at least one of the 330 programs hosted by the library.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.