Members of Yes Brighton Library, a group supporting the Brighton District Library millage proposal, said the County Clerk has approved the ballot language submitted by the library for the Nov. 3 election.
“It’s good news,” said Rich Perlberg, chairman of Yes Brighton Library. “It’s a crucial first step toward passing the millage and restoring library services.”
The ballot will read as follows:
The Brighton District Library debt bond millage expires this year. That debt levy has averaged 22/100 of one mill over the last several years. The Library proposes to levy an identical amount, 22/100 of one mill, to be used for general operational expenses, including, but not limited to, building and site maintenance and purchase of Library materials.
Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be imposed on taxable property within the Brighton District Library district be increased in an amount not to exceed 22/100 of one mill ($0.22 on each $1,000 of taxable value) for a period of 20 years, beginning in the year 2015 and ending in the year 2034, inclusive, as new additional millage for providing funds for Library purposes, including, but not limited to, building and site maintenance, operational expenses and materials?
It is estimated that 22/100 of one mill would raise approximately $420,000 when it is first levied.
For owners of a house with a market value of $200,000, the proposed millage would cost $22 per year. However, because the proposed millage replaces a millage that is expiring at the end of this year, the net result is that taxpayers’ level of taxation for the library would not change.
“It’s such a small amount of money for each household, especially considering all the value the library provides to the community. It’s about the same cost as a cup of coffee per month,” Perlberg said. “And it’s the same tax rate people have been paying for the library.”
Making up for a tax shortfall
Like other public libraries, Brighton District Library is dependent upon tax revenues, which are down following the most recent recession.
“Brighton District Library receives 85 percent of its funding from local property tax,” said Ed Rutkowski, the library’s Assistant Director. “Since 2008, that revenue has fallen 13 percent. This has driven major cuts to services and hours.”
For example, to save money the library began closing on summer Sundays in 2011 and on Thursdays in 2012. They slashed the budget for new materials from $182,800 in 2008 to $99,994 in 2014. They froze staff wages and decreased benefits, and deferred building improvements.
If the millage passes, the library will use the funds to restore cuts made during the recession, as well as make improvements to the building.
“We will be able to reopen on Thursdays,” said Library Director Nancy B. Johnson. “That’s something patrons have been very clear about telling us they want. We will also be able to restore materials budgets to offer a wider variety of new materials, expand e-book offerings, and reduce wait times for popular items. We can fund much-needed upgrades to public restrooms, replace aging carpeting and furniture, and we can budget for longer-term building needs, like roofing, without making cuts to public services.”
And if the millage doesn’t pass?
“Service cuts will remain in place,” Johnson said. “Going forward, more cuts in services are likely, as major maintenance items like roofing, heating and air conditioning, restrooms, carpet and furniture become critical and can no longer be deferred.”
“However, we hope it doesn’t come to that,” she added. “People around here love their library. We just hope they’ll get out on election day and support us at the polls.”