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Troy Library Debate to be Televised

The Community Media Network will broadcast a public debate Wednesday regarding a proposed millage to fund the library.

Representatives on both sides of the debate surrounding a proposed millage to fund the will have a chance to make their case this week during a televised meeting.

The meeting, which is being presented by Community Media Network TV and The Oakland Press, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Wednesday, will be held at the station's studio, 1230 Souter Blvd. and is open to the public. Viewers will be permitted to call in with questions at 248-589-7778.

Joining moderator and legal analyst Charlie Langton will be Phillip Kwik, head of public services at the Troy library; Janice Daniels, who will represent anti-millage group Troy Citizens United; Bonnie Caprara of the Oakland Press; Troy Mayor Pro-Tem Mary Kerwin, and Sue Martin, representing Troy Residents Unified for a Strong Troy (TRUST), which supports the proposed millage.

The discussion will precede an Aug. 2 special election authorized by Troy's governing body that will allow voters to decide the fate of a proposed 0.7-mill property tax levy to provide a dedicated funding source to the city's library. If approved, the tax would be levied for five years and generate about $3.1 million in its first year.

The library will close in August if the millage isn't approved, city officials say. General Fund contributions for library staff and supplies aren't included in the city's current budget.

Members of Troy Citizens United, which opposes the millage being proposed on the Aug. 2 ballot, have said they don't believe new taxes are necessary to keep the library operational.

"When a governmental unit wants to raise taxes, they need to create a crisis," Frank Howrylak said at a July 14 community meeting hosted by Troy Citizens United. "When the budget was prepared, there were a number of positive items left out of the budget."

City leadership has "created a crisis" so they can ask for additional taxes from property owners, Howrylak said. He and other TCU members claim the city's current budget doesn't include favorable items that can fund existing services. Among the items he listed:

  • expenditure reductions of more than $1 million each year from recent employee concessions
  • about $12 million in savings over the next five years due to favorable earnings of the pension fund
  • about $1 million in additional in property tax revenues that he believes will come from residential property increases
  • a "rainy day" fund balance of $12.3 million that the city maintains for emergencies and securing bond ratings.

Troy Citizens United is joined by the Troy-Clawson Republican Forum in opposing the library millage.

TRUST states the city must protect the fund balance or it will lose its positive bond rating, and that funding the library out of that balance is fiscally irresponsible.

Kathy Martin, chair of the Troy Democratic Club and a founder of TRUST, said last week that she believes the groups leading the opposition to the library millage care less about taxes than they do a political agenda. "They want to take over Troy and have it be a base for the extreme right wing for the state of Michigan," Martin said. "There are people who are trying to manipulate for political control in the city ... they are trying to confuse voters."

Kerwin, who has publicly supported the millage, has said the city's tax revenues have been cut by about 40 percent, while the city's millage rate has remained about about the same for more than 15 years.

She said City Council's decision to remove the library from the budget was to retain essential services, such as police, fire and infrastructure.

"We have cut (expenditures) to keep the millage low," Kerwin said Wednesday. "The reason we are before you now is because we can't crank out $200,000 each month to keep this library running. And that is a shoestring budget — people have had enough with shoestrings."

The meeting will be televised on Cable Channel 18 and online at cmntv.org/watch.

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