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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Freep's Postmortem from Wednesday

November 3, 2010
Troy, Bloomfield Hills voters nix library millages
By TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The future of the Troy Public Library is “as clear as mud,” the city’s lawyer says, after voters defeated four millages designed to create and fund an independent library board.
It’s likely to become a topic of Monday’s Troy City Council meeting, where Mayor Louise Schilling is expected to bring up again the possible censuring of councilman Martin Howrylak over his letter advocating the measures’ defeat.
And in Bloomfield Hills, voters sent a resounding “no” to a six-year, .617-mill library levy there, with 61% or 1,342 voting against the measure and 39% or 842 voting for it. Supporters sought to resume a lending contract with Bloomfield Township’s library or strike up a new deal with the library in Birmingham.
In Troy, Proposal 1, the 10-year, 0.9885-millage to create and fund an independent library board, failed by 689 votes, with 15,590 or 51% voting no and 14,901 or 49% voting yes. 
Supported by the Friends of the Troy Public Library, the millage was touted as the answer to city council slashing the library’s budget and phasing the library out of the city’s general fund. The three other measures failed by more than 80% of the vote each.
The library is scheduled to close July 1, after city council slashed funding and library hours this year and all funding by June 30.
Members of Troy Citizens United, which advocated four “no” votes, have said they’ll soon present petitions to force the city to keep funding a pared-down library.
If the council refuses to consider the option, the group hopes to force the issue onto an upcoming ballot.
“We can have a library with no new taxes, and that’s what the petition drive is doing,” group spokeswoman Deborah DeBacker said.
City attorney Lori Bluhm said that option -- one of a couple that make the library’s future uncertain --- could end up in a lawsuit.
“Under state law, the voters get to vote only if it’s a legislative matter, not an administrative matter,” Bluhm said today. “And because it will very likely be directly related to the budget process, it is an administrative matter, not a legislative matter.”
In 2005, residents passed a charter amendment that gives council the option to place the issue on the ballot for a nonbinding advisory vote, Bluhm said. Advisory ballot questions provide direction for city leaders on various issues in the community, but don’t require that action be taken.
Schilling said she’s disappointed about Proposal 1’s loss, and was not optimistic today that council would reconsider funding the library.
“Council’s already made a decision with regards to budgetary funds,” she said. “We’ve already looked very carefully at all of the funds.”
Howrylak said he hopes council will revisit budget cuts to support the library – and isn’t adverse to a new, half-mill proposal to help pay for it.
“It still needs, I think from a policy perspective, to be put to a vote of the people to get that support, to temper down the environment a little bit,” he said.
Monday’s council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Troy City Hall.
Contact Tammy Stables Battaglia: 586-826-7262 or tbattaglia@freepress.com.

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