Stair Public Library board looks district library option 2014.04.09

By DAVID GREEN

Declining revenue is pushing Morenci’s Stair Public Library board of trustees to seek additional funding through the formation of a district library. Revenue obtained through a millage would help the library maintain its current level of programming and services.

Stair board members invited city officials as well as the Medina and Seneca township boards to an informational meeting March 31 to explain how a district library would function.

“We’re seeing you as part of our community,” library director Colleen Leddy said to township officials present, “and we need your help in saving the library.”

The library has contracts with the two townships to provide library services in exchange for penal fines and state aid that are determined on a per capita basis.

Stair Public Library is currently a department of the City of Morenci and functions with a board approved by city council members. No one, whether a city or township resident, pays to use the library, although no direct funding comes from the townships.

A district library is formed when two or more municipalities join together and create a new board that serves as a taxing authority.

In order for Stair to operate as a district library, a majority of voters from Medina and Seneca townships as well as the City would need to pass a millage to support the library. The millage amount would be determined by the new board.

The district library approach would provide stable funding during a time of declining revenue, Leddy said, while providing fairness among everyone who uses the library.

Morenci city administrator/clerk Michael Sessions explained that City tax revenue declined by $160,000 through the closure of Palm Plastics and he noted that property values are at an all-time low.

“In the span of 10 years,” he said, “$6.2 billion of revenue sharing has been taken away by the State.”

The 2013-14 city budget cut library spending by $14,367, and the proposed budget for the next year is expected to trim funding by an additional $2,000.

Leddy reviewed the services currently provided by the library including the summer reading program, visiting authors, book discussions, the VolunTeen program, and various educational programs.

“We see the library as a real community center,” she said. “Everyone is welcome, both city and townships. We have a desire to serve all.”

Leddy said that a strong library is fundamentally important to the community. Stair is closely associated with the school and serves as a melting pot for the community.

A district library could give the townships representation on the board and sustain the work the library now does.

“Our future rests with all of you,” she said.

The first step in creating a library district is for the two township boards to appoint representatives to a district library planning committee.

The committee would develop an agreement laying out the details of the new organization. This could include arrangements with the City regarding financial support and property maintenance.

If approved by the Library of Michigan’s State Librarian, the millage request would then go before city and township voters.