FILE - School library

Rochester Hills Public Library is considering seeking a property tax increase to maintain its current services, officials said. The library's proposal is to raise the millage rate in Rochester Hills from 0.75 percent of a mill to 1.07 mills, a 32 percent increase that would bring the library an additional $1.1 million annually. 

The library, which also contracts with the communities of Rochester and Oakland Township to provide services to their residents, suggested Oakland Township also increase its millage rate by a similar amount, which would bring in about $400,000 annually.

Christine Lind Hage, director of the Rochester Hills Public Library, told the Center Square in an email that the library is still operating off a millage rate approved nearly a century ago, and it is becoming difficult to maintain costs.

“The library has been working on a millage approved in 1924 [that] has been reduced to about 75 [percent] of a mill in Rochester Hills, and even less in Oakland Township and Rochester,” Hage said. “In order to maintain services and the building at the level our public expects and enjoys, we need to get more funding.”

To reduce costs, the library froze wages, cut staff benefits and reduced the staff size, but avoided cutting services, she said. Such cuts are not sustainable, Hage added.

Between 2015 and 2017, the library spent more than budget by about $1.8 million. It also exceeded budget in 2019 by about $2 million.

“We intentionally went over budget to update and refresh the building,” Hage said. “We saved money over a period of 25 years just to cover such costs as new carpet, reupholstered furniture, replacement of mechanical equipment, etc. That is what our fund balance was for and how it was used.”

Two other issues contributed to the library going over its budget, Hage said. The library had to fix a drive-through to return books and funded a new machine to check in returned library materials to cut down on wait times.

“The Library Board is still discussing the millage and we will be releasing more information in the coming weeks,” Hage said. “This is still a work in progress.”

Rochester Hills makes up about 71 percent of the population that the library serves and contributes about 68 percent of the funds. Rochester, which makes up 13 percent of the population, provides about 12 percent of the funds. Oakland Township, which makes up about 17 percent of the population, provides about 20 percent of library funding.

Oakland Township Supervisor Michael Bailey declined to comment.

Staff Writer

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.