Thursday, May 19, 2011

An update on library access for Bloomfield Hills

Just after I posted yesterday's library news, C&G Newspapers reported on another situation I covered in my first post about the plight of local libraries. Here is what I wrote then as a commentary on the Detroit Free Press article on the subject:
What about Bloomfield Hills and Troy, the poster children of cities in Metro Detroit who either have lost access to other cities' libraries or whose own libraries are in danger of closing?
Bloomfield Hills, which never had a library of its own, city officials are negotiating with the directors of Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham to give Bloomfield Hills residents full borrowing privileges.
Birmingham would be a better match for Bloomfield Hills than Troy, which the city had been using.
I've already written about Troy's situtation, twice, and I'm sure I'll write more about it between now and August, when the city's residents vote on the millage proposal to keep the library open. It's Bloomfield Hills' turn.
The Bloomfield Hills City Commission decided to raise the city’s tax rate from 9.05 to 9.85 mills May 10 in order to obtain a balanced budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, officials said.
Remember, the issues with the libraries are part of a general fiscal crisis for government. The usual solution has been austerity--cutting services and laying off employees, not raising revenue. That Bloomfield Hills has decited to raise revenue is a sign that trends might be moving in the other direction. Now, what about the community's library access?
At the same meeting, the commission agreed upon a counter offer to submit to Baldwin Public Library, with which the city has been in negotiations for library service. The counter offer would levy 0.3 mills for three years for library services — but only with the approval of voters come November.

The 0.3 mills would bring in around $220,000 a year, officials say, which equates to just less than $150 per household.
Those numbers are important. The 0.3 mills turns out to be the minimum level that qualifies for state library funding. The $150/household would be lower than the $200 the residents have been paying for access to Troy's library. That arrangement has the Bloomfield Hills residents buying cards and then Bloomfield Hills reimbursing them. Since Troy's library is still open, Bloomfield Hills residents can still use their library, which gives Bloomfield Hills time to negociate. They'll need it.
Baldwin recently turned down a $166,000 offer from Bloomfield Hills for library service. That was a counter to Baldwin’s initial request of roughly $380,500 a year for three years from the city for library services.

The library had not accepted the recent counter offer at press time, so official ballot language — which would have to be approved by August — had not been decided.
Stay tuned to see how this "maybe" turns out.


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