2018-06-24 / Insight

Imlay City Library seeks renewal and small millage increase

810-452-2616 • pfoley @mihomepaper.com

IMLAY CITY — When voters in Attica and Imlay townships and Imlay City head to the polls for the Aug. 7 primary, the Ruth Hughes Memorial District Library will be asking them to approve a .9966-mill renewal and a .1034-mill tax increase.

The tax, said library director Tracy Aldrich, would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 less than the cost of two hard cover books, but means life and death to the library.

Aldrich said the $384,000 the levy would generate annually represents about 82 percent of the library’s annual income.

“The problem is,” she said, “in the recession we took such a heavy hit.”

When district voters approved the current millage in 2008, she said, it generated $387,559 annually but by 2016 that had shrunk to $328,521 — a 15-percent decrease.

She added the library has lost $60,000 in court fine revenue and there’s a possibility the library could lose the state reimbursement in lieu of the personal property tax income it lost with the 2014 repeal of that tax. That, she said, would cost the district another $15,000 to $20,000.

In the meantime, said Aldrich, “The cost of everything has increased.”

Aldrich said many of the systems in the main library, which opened its doors in January 1990, are nearing the end of their useful lives. She said the bathrooms will have to be redone in the next two to three years and within five years the library will be faced with replacing the carpet and redoing the parking lot and sidewalks.

As a district library, she said, “we are on our own.”

At the end of 2016 the library had 47,600 books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and video games in its collection and more than 500,000 E-books, audio books, music albums and movies in its digital collection. Library staff answered more than 12,000 reference questions and presented 257 programs to more than 4,500 people. She added, nearly 40,000 people visited the library and more than 9,000 of them used computers.

The Aug. 7 millage request, said Aldrich, will just put the library back to where is was a decade ago, at least in terms of revenue.

“We’re continuing to limp along the best we can,” she said. Since the beginning of the recession, the library has been forced to trim hours and eliminate a part-time library assistant and a page.

If the millage passes, she said, “we’re going to try to squeeze out half a person.”

For someone with a home valued at $100,000, approving the tax would cost $55 a year or $4.59 a month. Aldrich said that’s about the price of a fast food lunch.

Aldrich said the library has been very frugal with the public’s money. “We’re in okay shape now and we want to keep it that way.”

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