Library millage off ballot, may be imposed by independent authority

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — Voters won’t have to weigh the pros and cons of a millage during the November general election ballot after city council removed the 0.35-mill renewal from the ballot. Instead, a newly-formed independent Lincoln Park Public Library authority will likely impose a tax levy of up to 1 mill.

Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause said the authority — now separate from the Wayne County library system — will oversee the library as a standalone operation. “Basically up to 1 mill can be levied without the vote of the people to support that,” Diaz Krause said.

City council had previously approved, on Aug. 5, a reorganization that turned the former member of the Wayne County Library System into a city public library, an alternative to what had become a costly relationship with the county. A committee comprised of city council members, library commission members and Library Director Filomena Sgambati recommended the reorganization both as a cost-savings measure and to help protect the struggling library should the city’s finances worsen. Some council members reportedly questioned if an emergency manager could decide to close the facility.

Diaz Krause said that patron services will be transparent, and that borrowing privileges still exists among cooperating libraries. Although opposed to the authority’s ability to levy a tax without voter consent, Diaz Krause said city council narrowly approved the plan after hearing the report.

“The committee was convinced that this was the best route to go for a long-term, sustainable operation,” Diaz Krause said. “It’s like this in other communities and it works well.”

With the authority in place, the council followed up during its Aug. 19 meeting and rescinded the library millage renewal that had been scheduled for the November ballot. “If the millage had stayed on and passed,” Diaz Krause said, “voters could be agreeing to pay 1.35, more than intended. This could appear to residents as double-dipping.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)