Ballot proposals could stabilize library budget

MARQUETTE — The Peter White Public Library will address sustainability issues at the polls on Nov. 6.

Over the last several years, Michigan Tax Tribunal cases have depleted revenue for public services like the library that rely on property taxes in order to function. According to Library Director Andrea Ingmire, the current annual lost revenue is $84,000 and the library expects to lose an additional $140,000 per year after the closing of We Energies-operated Presque Isle Power Plant and UP Health System-Marquette hospital’s move to a brownfield site.

“During the term of the brownfield plan, the library will not receive any taxes that are paid to the new hospital location. It is our sincere hope that the current hospital (site) remains taxable,” Ingmire told the Marquette City Commission Tuesday during a fiscal year 2019 budget meeting.

In July, the city commission unanimously approved a Headlee Override ballot request from the library to levy additional millage not to exceed .1315 mill for a period of five years. If approved by voters in November, it would roll the currently collected millage rate of 1.3685 mills to the contracted millage rate of 1.5 mills and would raise approximately $70,000 in additional funding the first year.

The original Headlee Amendment was created in 1978 to temporarily limit local government revenue growth by rolling back the tax rate. A Headlee Override involves asking voters to approve raising the millage to its original rate after it has been forced to be rolled back because of growth in property values. As of August, the library had lost $84,000 of annual operating funds due to changes in taxable values in the service area.

There will also be two Headlee Override proposals regarding the library for Sands and Chocolay townships on the upcoming ballot. Marquette and Powell Township voters will also see proposals on their ballots. In Marquette Township, the library is requesting a renewal of services and in Powell Township there will be a request for approving new services. If all ballot proposals pass, the library anticipates an increase of $223,000 in revenue which would stabilize the library’s operating budget.

If the proposals do not pass, the PWPL Board of Trustees would have to consider cuts to library services and possibly operating hours.

“It’s a very busy, busy election time for the Peter White Public Library,” she said. “Without the additional Headlee Override funds, the library will be in an unsustainable budget situation and will have to consider additional cuts to the library services.”

According to Ingmire, the library regularly raises 10 percent of the operating budget with fundraising.

“The fact that we’re able to raise that much of our budget annually demonstrates the level of community support we have,” Ingmire said, adding that state funding, penal fines and fines/fees account for 15 percent of the operating budget and 75 percent comes from property taxes.

Ingmire said she hears weekly, if not daily, that library users want the library to reopen on Sunday but said it’s “just not on the table at this point.”

“With funds going down and costs going up, our long-term funding plans will really backflow what we’ve already lost,” she said. “All that said, today I had a patron tell me that the library represents the best in our community and I believe that’s true. I am confident with public support we can regain funding to continue offering excellent library services.”

Ingmire also updated the commission on library improvements that began in May after a bond was approved by over 80 percent of voters in August 2017.

“The construction project, despite the Front Street stairs, is going very well. We continue to be on schedule and are getting good patron and staff feedback from the changes as they’re installed,” she said.

The PWPL Board of Trustees hired Closner Construction of Marquette to complete the library’s estimated $4.2 million renovation project which includes major repairs of the 1904 facade, roof repairs, as well as resealing all the building’s windows, heating and cooling equipment updates, safety, technology and furnishing updates, space reorganization and additional space created for services and programs.

Commissioner Mike Plourde commended Ingmire for her dedication to the public and library. He said the library is going to be even more “dynamic” once construction is completed.

For more information about PWPL or the ballot proposals, visit pwpl.info.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.