ESCANABA - The Escanaba Public Library will not be seeking a proposed county-wide millage as planned because of a recent change in its service area that will negatively affect funding. Officials made the decision during a special council meeting Friday.
Last July, due to declining revenues, Escanaba and Gladstone public libraries entered into a library services agreement for a county-wide millage to support both libraries. The two parties were jointly seeking a millage proposal to present to voters later this year.
Escanaba officials were forced to reconsider the millage proposal when Masonville Township recently opted out of Escanaba's library service area and was accepted into Gladstone's service area.
Masonville Township Board voted in February to terminate its contract with the Escanaba library and voted to enter into an agreement with the Gladstone library.
Earlier this week, the Gladstone School Board accepted a request by Masonville officials for township residents to be serviced by the Gladstone Public Library at the school district's building at 300 S. 10th St.
After considering the anticipated funding loss created by this change in Escanaba's service area, council took action Friday to withdraw the city's support in the county-wide proposal. Officials determined current services and programs could not be fully-funded at the Escanaba library with the county-wide millage.
Gladstone Librarian Lori Wells said Escanaba's withdrawal from the millage request will mean the election will not take place because both libraries would have been on the ballot proposal.
Wells added the Gladstone library has begun servicing Masonville residents even though the township remains in Escanaba's service area for six months, according to contract. The Gladstone library will receive additional penal fines beginning in July 2013 based on the increase in its service area.
Escanaba will be losing this state-mandated funding with its shrinking service area. Because of state and local cuts and a poor economy, the city was already looking at decreasing its 2012-13 revenue contribution to the library.
Decreased funding from the city would mean a reduction in hours of operation, fewer programs, and less services, according to Escanaba Librarian Carolyn Stacey.
"We know that libraries are important to the quality of life for many people in Delta County. We will continue to work to find a way to keep the services strong for all our users," Stacey commented in a news release Friday.
City Manager Jim O'Toole explained in the news release that the county-wide library proposal "changed from its original intent to the extent that it is no longer a viable option."
The county-wide millage would have allowed the Escanaba and Gladstone public libraries to provide services to all residents without user fees, as well as strengthen services provided to townships, he said.
"We regret that recent changes to the structure of the libraries' service areas and the potential for further re-structuring has impacted the capacity of the Escanaba Public Library to provide the level of service that was specified to taxpayers with the county-wide millage proposal, " said O'Toole.
"The Escanaba City Council and the Escanaba administration will remain committed to seeking other cooperative solutions in continuing to explore strategic partnerships for sustainable funding for city and township (library) users," he added.
The Escanaba Public Library serves the city and 12 townships in Delta County. The library has 10,364 active cardholders including 57 percent who are city residents, 40 percent who are township residents, and 3 percent from outside the library's service area.
The Escanaba library is funded through city taxes and appropriations, monies generated in exchange for serving townships (penal fines), grants, fines, and donations, said Stacey.
The Gladstone Public Library services Gladstone city, Brampton Township, and Escanaba Township.