Library millage win means modernization, “new service focus”
By Nic Custer
The Central Park Neighborhood Association October meeting covered a Flint Public Library millage ballot proposal, neighborhood blight, the Investor’s Committee, and upcoming elections.
Director Kay Schwartz, Flint Public Library, shared information about a library millage on the November ballot.
[Editor’s note: the millage passed by a wide margin in the Nov. 3 election].
Schwartz explained that the millage for 6/10 of a mill would last from 2015 to 2021. It would expire at the same time as the other 1.4 renewable millage, which residents already pay. The library also has two mills funding in perpetuity, which was passed in 2003 and is the maximum that can be requested by FPL according to state law.
New model of library service
She said the FPL has just been through a planning process, funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, to develop a new model for library services. Between 2009 and 2013, FPL lost more than $2 million or about 50% of its budget because of declining property values.
Schwartz said the library is funded by a property tax millage. The library had to settle on a level of service it could afford so in 2013 it reduced to five days a week and only a single shift of staff to run it.
Even with those measures, there still has been a revenue gap of $500,000. The millage is expected to raise $450,000 to fill the gap. She said if the funding gap is filled the library will begin to invest in new service priorities. The new vision is to become Flint’s “go to” place for what she described as “learning across the lifespan.” This plan will have three priorities: digital literacy, family literacy and preserving the building as a welcoming place for the community.
“We’re ready for a transformation to really be a learning center for our community to help people get job ready,” Schwartz said.
Library building modernization needed
Built in 1958 and expanded in 1990, the library needs to be modernized. She said she hopes to get additional C.S. Mott Foundation funding for an architect to redesign the interior space to make staffing more efficient.
She said because the library is built in rooms, it requires more staff to run it. The library just had a facilities assessment. The air handling units are from 1958, two of three freight elevators are “old enough to draw social security.” And the building has single pane windows and not much roof insulation.
Schwartz said library staff cannot advocate for the library when there is an issue on the ballot but only provide information about the proposal.
Signals of support
Jack Minore, a former city council member and state representative, spoke as a member of Citizens for the Flint Public Library. He asked residents to vote yes on the millage.
He said even though the increase would equate to about $1 per month for the average resident, the amount will be fewer tax dollars than in previous years when the property taxes were higher. He said if the community approves the millage, it will give a signal to the Mott Foundation that the community supports the library and wants it to be invested in it.
Demolition requested, stripped siding reported
In other CPNA business, Norma Sain, Court Street Village Non Profit Housing Corp., reported that a house at 722 East Street will be added to the city’s emergency demolition list. The house’s fieldstone foundation has been crumbling for the last several years. She also reported that a duplex at 801 E. Court Street is being stripped of its siding.
Funding for house painting
In November, CPNA Investor’s Committee will present an idea to homeowners to fund exterior house painting in the neighborhood. The group will meet a second time to begin seeking funding for the project.
In other news, the group will hold elections at its November general membership meeting. Vice President Karen Tipper and President Ed Custer are willing to rotate positions. The group has no candidates to fill its vacant Secretary position.
The group meets at 7 p.m., November 12 at Court Street Village Non Profit Neighborhood House, 737 East St.
Nic Custer, EVM managing editor, can be reached at NicEastvillage@gmail.com