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Published: Tuesday, 5/22/2001

Hillsdale hopes region will pay tax for library

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

HILLSDALE - For decades, residents in three townships surrounding this southeast Michigan city have showed up in town to use the library for free.

Now, city and township officials hope they'll agree to pay to check out books.

Residents of Cambria, Hillsdale, and Jefferson townships will vote on a 1-mill tax issue to support a district library. A special election may be held as early as August.

“The idea is instead of it being a city-owned library, it becomes owned by the region,” Hillsdale City Manager Tim Vagle said yesterday. “Part of that process is a millage in these three communities to help support it.”

Mitchell Public Library has served residents of the city and surrounding area since the early 1900s, library Director Jacqueline Morris said. The building is about 5,000 square feet and holds about 30,000 books. Though attractive, the building is outdated, she said.

The library wants to expand into a neighboring 18,000-square-foot building that will accommodate 60,000 volumes and has meeting and activity rooms. The $2.1 million expansion is in the works, Ms. Morris said, with money from a community fund-raising project.

“People don't know what they're missing. We hope to show them what a modern library would do,” she said. “This is the system that we could put in place to evenly distribute the costs.”

The three townships now have contracts with the city, ranging from $850 to $1,250, that allow their residents to obtain a library card for free. Nonresidents pay $17.25 a year for a family membership.

The library receives most of its funding from Hillsdale residents, who pay a 1-mill tax that brings in about $100,000 a year, Mr. Vagle said. The state pays about $85,000.

The three townships would generate $150,000 to $165,000 if voters approve the tax issues, he said.

“We don't expect it to be a challenged vote in the city because they are already paying the tax,” Mr. Vagle said. “In the townships, we don't have a way to gauge the success of the vote. This would be a new tax.”

The three township boards have approved resolutions supporting the concept. If approved, residents with a $100,000 home would pay an additional $50 a year in taxes.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Hillsdale Township Trustee Joe Sanford said he has heard a lot of support for the concept. He said if the city must discontinue the contracts with the three townships, residents would be forced to pay the annual fee.

“Millage is always a problem for people; they are reluctant to vote on extra taxes,” Mr. Sanford said. “But this is a small enough amount and, hopefully, with a large enough benefit because they won't have to pay for the whole thing.”



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