Kalkaska County voters have to decide May 7 whether to springboard the county into the 21st Century by approving a request to build a new library that will allow for not only more books but better access to the internet and the rest of the planet.
It’s a crucial step for a community working hard in other areas to attract new businesses and jobs, upgrade recreation opportunities, and breathe new life into an aging downtown.
The biggest hurdle so far, however, doesn’t have anything to do with the need for a new library or what a larger, modern building could do for Kalkaska’s young people and the community as a whole.
Instead, the debate - if you can call it that - has come in the form of a flyer from a tea party-related group whose major opposition is summed up in three words - “no new taxes.” That’s not an argument, it’s a slogan, and it doesn’t address the pros and cons of building a new library or anything beyond “no.”
That’s not good enough. The existing library building is 73 years old and is less than 5,000 square feet. A foundation wall is bulging, there’s mold and there isn’t enough room for new books.
Library officials say the state average for a library serving a population the size of Kalkaska County is about 17,000-square feet. The existing library is also hemmed in with no room to expand.
The leader of an opposition group said he doesn’t think the library would benefit all of Kalkaska county. In fact, it would be a county facility and the millage would apply to every Kalkaska County property owner.
The 0.87-mill levy would cost the owner of a home with a taxable value of $30,000 just $25 a year, or 50 cents a week. The millage would also fund operating expenses for 20 years. The new building is estimated to cost no more than $3.83 million.
This is a great opportunity for Kalkaska to boost ongoing efforts to kick-start the local economy and make the community more attractive to young people with families. A tax hike of $26 a year is minimal, at best; and the argument against any and all new taxes, no matter what, fails the common sense test.
How else do we pay for police and fire protection, roads and schools than taxes? Replacing a 70-year-old library building is not excessive, it’s prudent - exactly the kind of thing good government is supposed to do.