ALPENA - The voters in Alpena County have supported the Alpena County Library though millages for nearly 30 years. The tax money has helped to maintain the collection of books, programming and building maintenance. Besides the 0.75 renewal, on Tuesday the library will be requesting an additional request 0.25 millage that will supplement existing programs, as well as be used for building maintenance and future repairs the 40-year-old building will need.
The renewal, if passed, will be for 10 years, which has been the norm, but the new proposal is for only five. Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank said the library board considered many options before deciding on requesting a pair of millages. He said because property values are slow to rebound from the recession, tax rolls are lower and the amount of money collected from the millage has slipped.
In order to continue to provide the programming and service residents expect, the addition quarter mill was needed. Magness-Eubank said the decision for the additional millage request was a difficult one to make, but in the end it was determine it was needed.
"A straight renewal was actually a cut, because with the low property values and some people weren't paying as much in taxes," Magness-Eubank said. "The personal property tax is also going away and that will also lower our revenues. It wasn't wasn't going to keep the current level of programming and operations going, so we decided to go to a second request."
Money from the second millage will be used to update several system at the library. Magness-Eubank said the heating and cooling system is old and ready for replacement and the roof will need to be redone. He said the last time the roof of the library was redone was about 20 years ago. He said work on the elevator also is needed because if it were to stop working, it would limit the elderly and handicapped from reaching the upstairs of the facility.
"The building is going to be 40 years old and like anything the more things age the more they break," Magness-Eubank said. "Those three things are just the things we know about, so we have to plan on other things that could cost a lot of money. We don't want to be chasing repairs. We want to stay ahead of things the best we can."
If the millage requests are passed, the renewal will cost taxpayers 75 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value. It would generate an estimated $671,000 a year. The second request would add an addition 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value to the tax bill and collect about $211,000 annually.
Library board President Jan Melville said she is confident the voters will support the millage and complimented Magness-Eubank, the library's users and user groups for the work they have done to educate the public on the need for the millages. She said if for some reason voters choose not to pass the requests, plans are in place for cuts to take place.
"We would cut the hours of operation and close earlier than we do now and probably close on Sundays," Melville said. "If it gets to the point where programs have to be cut it would be devastating. There are people of all ages that use the library to do resumes, do homework, or just read and learn.
"We have a plan B in place and we would decide what services needed to go first. Then everything would be up for discussion, including going for another millage. I hope it don't come to that. There are so many people that use this library for one thing or another and it would hurt the entire community if things were cut."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.