Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 9, 2013

Kalkaska library funding denied

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Voters in Kalkaska County by a 2 to 1 margin rejected a proposed millage to fund a new county library building.

Voters defeated a .87-mil library proposal Tuesday by 800 votes. The millage, if approved, would have generated up to about $3.8 million for construction of a new library, and would have provided 20 years worth of funding for furnishing, staffing and operating the new facility.

The library, located on South Cedar Street, relied on a .25 millage for the last 10 years. That’s set to expire in December, and library Director Bradley Chaplin said library officials will meet soon to decide how to secure future funding, including possibly asking voters to renew the .25 millage in November.

“With the way this vote turned out, it might be more prudent to go for the renewal,” Chaplin said.

Chaplin attributed the lopsided loss at least in part to the spread of “disinformation” about the ballot proposal.

“No matter how hard we tried to correct it, it fell on deaf ears,” Chaplin said.

A conservative group called Citizens 4 Better Government mailed out about 2,200 flyers that urged voters to reject the .87 millage, and organized public forums to discuss the proposal.

Tom Backers, head of Citizens 4 Better Government, said he was pleased with the final vote count.

“The mailer basically woke people up,” Backers said. “The whole point was to raise the issue, to make sure people in Kalkaska County knew there was something on the ballot they should care about.”

Backers said he invited library board members and officials from the Village of Kalkaska and its Downtown Development Authority to discuss future library millages with members of Citizens 4 Better Government.

“There’s some common ground here,” Backers said. “It’s not that we want to deny them a new building, it’s just how they were doing it.”

Michael Moran, director of the five-member library board, questioned the point of meeting with Citizens 4 Better Government members.

“(Backers’) group pretty much was just against the whole thing,” Moran said. “They complained about everything we tried to do.”

Other ballot initiatives in the Grand Traverse area fared better on Tuesday.

Voters by wide margins approved operational millages renewals for Northport, Central Lake and Elk Rapids public school districts.

Northport’s renewal passed 259-68; Central Lake’s passed 120-23; and Elk Rapids’ passed 619-231.

The three districts respectively will generate roughly $3.1 million, $2.3 million and $7.3 million in 2014 as a result of the approved renewals.

“For Elk Rapids, it’s about 65 percent of our budget,” Superintendent Stephen Prissel said. “It’s critical.”