Libraries and other organizations such as schools, police and fire departments that provide essential tax-supported services have been working with state lawmakers for nearly a year to brainstorm ways to replace the business equipment personal property tax (PPT) if it is eliminated.
Replacement is critical because without it, the services Kent County residents rely on will be at the very least irreparably damaged, and in some cases may cease entirely. Kent District Library applauded senators who recognized the value and necessity of our services, and were heartened that a “poison pill” replacement provision was included in a Senate measure that passed on May 10. While this solution is far from perfect, it is better than nothing. The provision provides that if a future legislature fails to restore revenue lost by elimination of the PPT, the PPT will be restored.
But wait. Now there are rumblings that the State House of Representatives may remove the provision, which if true, would damage KDL’s voter-approved tax funding and the services we offer to more than a quarter-million people throughout Kent County. It would also mean the year of negotiations between the Senate and governmental tax-funded essential services was utterly meaningless.
We agree the PPT is not a wise tax; why penalize businesses for trying to grow? But the services it funds – municipalities, schools and, of course, libraries – are anything but unwise. These are the entities voters have said again and again are worthy of their tax dollars. These are services that keep property values steady and growing – and thus communities vibrant – and convince businesses and people to move in and to stay.
I can say with absolute confidence that Michigan’s libraries do not take advantage of voters’ generosity. Libraries in this state saw state aid decrease in 2011 to levels not seen since 1978 – that’s the level of de-funding you think of when organizations say they’ve cut expenses to the bone.
Despite cuts, we’re offering programs and materials that are keeping libraries more vital than ever to people’s lives. KDL cardholders number at nearly a quarter million – and that’s just our library system. In April, more than 1,000 new people signed up for library cards and in February, more than 3,000. Our early childhood literacy programs have become musts for Kent County parents and educators. Our computer and job skills course offerings are often filled to capacity, which is notable in that Gov. Snyder was quoted in a news article last year as recommending people depend more on resources at public libraries for their job searches.
At KDL, the PPT accounts for nearly 9.1 percent of our operating budget. If it is not replaced, the cuts will go inside the bone. What will happen is libraries will be forced – against our and voters’ wishes – to take the services they bargained for away from them. Another possible repercussion could be a tax increase on homeowners to pay for the services residents have come to expect.
Your state’s public libraries are not asking for more money; we’re asking that we be able to continue to provide the services we agreed to provide, with the funding voters approved.
Lawmakers, please follow through on the good-faith promises you have made regarding replacement of the PPT. Library supporters, please tell your legislators your thoughts about losing services you voted for.
Thank you for your support,
Lance Werner, director
Kent District Library