2014.07.16 Keith Pennington: District library

While reading the coverage of the city and library board attempting to secure more funding for the library, I’ve only read that an independent District Library is being considered.

Two years ago, I raised concerns with the city council and library board that a more equitable sharing of costs involving the city and townships should be promoted. Currently, there are cooperative agreements between the city and townships; sharing the benefits and expenses of the fire and EMS departments while the city maintains ownership of all the assets. A similar arrangement for the library should be considered.

The fire department has its own board directly under the authority of the city council. The townships pay a contract fee to the city each year for fire service. Separately, the EMS board is comprised of representatives from the city and township boards and all expenses are prorated among the households in those locales.

My point is that the library does not need to form a new entity, (District Library) separate from the city in order for the townships to share the cost of service. Two other successful methods are already being used to provide fire and EMS services. 

The city has had bad experiences before when they decided to divest city services to other parties. The hospital and EMS services both folded shortly after divorcing the city. Fortunately, through the cooperative effort of the townships and city, the EMS service was reclaimed, although not without great cost. There is a benefit to the library if the city operates as their backstop. 

The primary driver of the effort to form a District Library is to secure additional taxes from the property owners. However, the city and townships could place a tax increase on the ballot, without creating a District Library. 

If tax revenue has fallen to the point that services are being affected unbearably, then leaders should make that case to the general public and ask for a restored level of local tax revenue. I would much rather support taxes that stay at the local level than to send them on to Lansing or D.C.

I ask the city and township leaders to consider this alternate approach to funding problems. Adding more expense to create a District Library, then giving away the building and library assets to a newly created board isn’t the only option. 

– Keith Pennington