GUEST VIEWPOINT: Library funding honors agreement with voters

During our City Council meeting on Nov. 27, 2017, comments were made by PSLZ Certified Public Accountant Rana Emmons regarding the library millage credits that seemed to create some confusion within the council (“Audit clean, library millage talk returns,” Nov. 29, 2017)
To gain the history of the millage, we reached out to Julie Meredith, who is the director of the Clarkston Independence District Library and she was able to provide a very detailed summary showing the linkage to the current millage.
An excerpt of that history, which dates to 1954, is:
• 2012, the Independence Township Board and Clarkston City Council approve the District Library agreement, forming the Clarkston Independence District Library with a millage rate of 1.25 mills, to be placed before voters with a deadline of approval of August 10, 2014. The city passes a resolution to reduce its general fund by 0.691 if the library’s new funding passes in order to prevent double-charging residents for library service.
• August 2014, voters in Independence Township and Clarkston approve library millage of 1.25 mills.
• 2015, Clarkston Independence District Library funding takes effect.
On Jan. 22, 2018, Council member Scott Reynolds, City Manager Jonathan Smith, Treasurer Greg Cote, and Rana Emmons from PSLZ CPA firm held an informal discussion to review the matter.
A couple of important points.
The City of the Village of Clarkston’s fiscal year runs July of a given year to June of the following year.
Given this, the initial starting period of this millage would have impacted the village starting in July 2014.
Clarkston is applying a credit of 0.691 on a fiscal-year bases to the maximum allowable millage as defined by Oakland County. Given Clarkston’s fiscal year periods, this 0.691 credit was half applied then in our fiscal years of 2014 and 2015 in the amount of a 0.3455 credit (0.3455+0.3455=0.691).
The city treasurer provided the following information showing these credits:
• 2013, maximum allowed millage, 13.1979; city levy, 13.1979 (zero difference, library credit not yet applied);
• 2014, maximum allowed millage, 13.1979; city levy, 12.8524 (0.3455 difference, credit half applied);
• 2015, maximum allowed millage, 13.0777; city levy, 12.5069 (0.5708 difference, credit not fully applied);
• 2016, maximum allowed millage, 12.9168; city levy, 12.1056 (0.8112 difference to make up for 2015. The years 2015 and 2016 used an average value of these two combined fiscal years to be compliant, 0.5708+0.8112 / 2 = 0.691);
• 2017, maximum allowed millage, 12.7876; city levy, 12.0966 (0.691 difference).
In fiscal years 2015 and 2016, the city used a two-fiscal-year average to apply the 0.691 millage credit. In fiscal year 2017, the 0.691 millage credit was fully applied.
The 0.691 credit is not cumulative year over year, though the dollar differences are.
In conclusion, we feel the City of the Village of Clarkston is honoring the agreement reached regarding funding of the district library and the comments made by PSLZ during the Nov. 27, 2017, City Council meeting were not exact in their representation.
By Scott Reynolds, Clarkston City Council member

One Response to "GUEST VIEWPOINT: Library funding honors agreement with voters"

  1. Michael Powell   April 5, 2018 at 7:17 am

    An excerpt of the history of the 2014 district library tax increase shows us that any numbers provided by the library and it’s director should be scrutinized and questioned by the public. The history of the 2014 tax increase shows that the information provided to the public by the library was misleading.
    Here’s a little history of the whopping 81.69% district library tax increase that voters were tricked into passing just two short years after the 2012 library tax increase proposal failed…

    In this paper library director Julie Meredith said that in 2013 the library’s .691 millage will generate $1,030,798, and its expenditures were projected to be $1,038,316. Resulting in a $7,518 deficit. But not to fear, the $7,518 deficit was to be taken from the Library’s $219,569 fund balance (slush fund). In 2012 (the previous year) the .691 library millage brought in $1,135,600, the library spent $1,128,800. Resulting in a $6800 surplus.
    Using the numbers that were presented to the public in this paper by Ms. Meredith, had the Libraries 1.25 mill tax hike proposal been passed by voters on Nov. 6, 2012, the libraries 2013 revenue would have increased by 81.69% or $834,946.38. The 2013 library revenue would have been $1,865,744.38. A $730,144 revenue increase over 2012, and a $834,946.38 revenue increase over the 2013 fiscal year. This tax increase is approximately a $6 million dollar tax increase over it’s 8 year life. So considering that in 2013 the library had a $7518 deficit and in 2012 it had a surplus, why did the library need such a huge $834,946 annual increase for the next 8 years?

    On March 20, 2014 – (news in brief), library director Julie Meredith said in this paper that the 1.25 library tax increase proposal “”would be a 0.551 mill increase over the present .691 millage and would cost an average homeowner $125, a $56 per year increase.” Meredith went on to say: “It’s replacement funding – we still need to secure funding.”
    Yet the numbers tell a different story – 1.25 – .691 = is a 0.559 increase, not 0.551. Irregardless of that, claiming that a whopping 81.69% tax increase is “replacement funding” completely ignores the fact that this was a huge tax increase.

    On April 3, 2014 – “One more chance for Library Millage” story in this paper, library officials said “we are asking taxpayers to pay about $125 per residence a year, which is $58 more than the average $67 paid now”, yet in the same story Marilyn Pomeroy, president of the library board said this about the $125 per residence tax: “We’re asking for about $52 a year increase from last year.” Why was the public given differing numbers?
    Considering that the public has historically been given numerous different cost scenarios by library officials, residents of Clarkston have many reasons to question the library millage.


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