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My Town: August voters to decide funding for Kent District Library branches | Arts & Culture

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My Town: August voters to decide funding for Kent District Library branches
My Town: August voters to decide funding for Kent District Library branches

-------NEWS RELEASE-------

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (Kent District Library)-- On Tuesday, August 5, 2014, Kent District Library residents will vote on a 1.28 mills ballot proposal to provide funding for KDL for 10 years.

The 1.28 millage rate consists of a renewal of the 0.88 mills levy, which has been in place since 2000 and expires at the end of 2014, and an additional 0.4 mills. The Kent District Library property tax millage provides 90% of the funding for services offered at 18 branch locations and online, including all library materials, technology, staff and programs.

Citing the need for additional revenue, KDL Board Chair Charles Myers noted that customers, as well as the municipal partners who own and operate KDL branches, are requesting additional services of the library. Specific demands include more convenient hours, additional support for KDL’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, expanded early literacy and reading programs for children, workshops for job seekers and improved technology and wireless infrastructure. Nearly one in four KDL residents relies on the library as their only source for Internet access.

The Library Board of Trustees unanimously voted to request the additional millage rate because declining taxable property values have resulted in revenue losses of over $1.6 million in the last three years. KDL has made significant budget cuts, including reducing personnel costs by over $1 million without laying off staff. Additionally, the library has reduced materials purchasing by over $670,000 since 2010. KDL’s 2014 revenue is at the same level as it was in 2006.

Quoting a public opinion survey commissioned by the library in 2013, Library Director Lance Werner noted “93 percent of KDL residents believe the library is an important part of their community. A higher millage rate is required in order to continue to offer the exceptional children’s programs, job skills training and technology assistance that we provide for residents.” He continues, “To ask voters to support a renewal of the same rate is to ask them to reduce services. That’s not what they’ve told us they want.”

Nearly 240,000 people or 60% of the KDL’s service population are active library cardholders.  KDL is one of the busiest libraries in Michigan, circulating more than 6 million physical and digital items in 2013. Nearly 3 million people visited a KDL branch in 2013, while 2.5 million remotely accessed KDL’s website. The library specializes in early literacy, with annual attendance of over 66,000 at programs for young children. KDL also administers the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for eligible residents of Kent, Ionia and Montcalm counties. 

Because funding from the previous 0.88 mills expires at the end of 2014, KDL must pass a millage levy in order to continue operations in 2015.

For more information, visit www.kdl.org/millage.