Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (May 21, 2012): The board’s main action items related to the 2012-13 budget, for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012. The public portion of the meeting lasted 45 minutes, following an executive session to discuss a written opinion of legal counsel and director’s evaluation.
In three separate, unanimous votes, the board approved the $12.183 million budget, set a millage rate at 1.55 mills – unchanged from the current rate – and designated the budget as a line-item budget with a policy for disbursements. There were no amendments, and minimal discussion. No one attended a public hearing on the budget.
Several trustees noted that the millage rate is below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy. If set at that higher rate, the library would see an additional $1.6 million in property tax revenues. The lower rate has been in place since fiscal 2009-10.
Monday’s meeting also included a report on the performance evaluation of AADL director Josie Parker, which was overwhelmingly positive. Parker’s salary will remain unchanged at $143,114.
Board president Margaret Leary read aloud a letter to Parker that praised her accomplishments, and highlighted an upcoming challenge: “The Ann Arbor District Library has increasingly been central to our community and its growth and prosperity. Now AADL has to decide whether its downtown facility is up to providing what the community deserves.”
The reference to a downtown facility reflects a decision by the board and top staff to resume exploring the possibility of a new building, in place of the current four-story structure at 343 S. Fifth Ave. A recent survey commissioned by AADL – and presented to the board at its April 16, 2012 meeting – indicates voter support for a tax increase to pay for major renovations or reconstruction of that building.
In another action item at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a one-year extension to the space-use agreement with Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library (FAADL). The nonprofit operates a used bookstore in the lower level of AADL’s downtown building. Proceeds of the store – about $90,000 annually – are given to the library.
Most of the board’s questions and discussion at the meeting related to a non-action item brought up during Parker’s report on the recent Vision 2012 conference, which drew 400 people from across Michigan and nearby states. The event featured three dozen exhibitors of products and services for the blind and visually impaired. It was hosted by AADL, which administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled. Ed Surovell speculated that there might be an opportunity to grow the event even more.
AADL 2012-13 Budget
The board considered three resolutions related to the $12.183 million budget for fiscal year 2012-13, which runs from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013.
Near the start of Monday’s meeting, the board held a public hearing on the budget to seek input, but no one showed up to comment.
A draft budget had been presented at the board’s April 16, 2012 meeting. At that time, the budget had been developed based on a 1% increase in projected tax revenues. That projected increase was subsequently lowered to 0.4% following the April 18 release of Washtenaw County’s equalization report, which is the basis for determining taxable value of property in the county, and in turn indicates how much tax revenue will be collected by local taxing entities.
The final budget projects an estimated $11.132 million in tax revenues – or about $71,000 less than the draft budget had projected. In addition to property taxes, other revenues come from library fines and fees, state aid and fines, interest, non-resident fees and grants.
On the expenditure side, the highest category is salaries and wages, at $5.8 million – an increase from $5.67 million this year. Employee benefits are budgeted to increase 6% from $1.476 million this year to $1.565 million in the next fiscal year. In part, that reflects an increase in the amount that AADL must contribute to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) – from 24.46% this year to 27.37%. The budget also includes a 3% merit raise pool for employees. In recent years, there has been no allocation for merit pay increases. [.pdf of 2012-13 budget summary]
AADL director Josie Parker commented that this is the first time in three years that the library has been able to offer merit raises, and she was pleased that staff who deserve raises would be able to receive them. The library hasn’t faltered in its accomplishments in recent years, she said, and the staff have stepped up and worked hard. Parker said she was grateful, and wanted to thank them publicly.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the 2012-13 budget.
AADL 2012-13 Budget: Millage Rate
In a separate vote, the board was asked to set a millage rate of 1.55 mills, unchanged from this year. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.
Rebecca Head noted that the millage rate is below the 1.92 mills that the district is authorized to levy. That reflects the board’s conservative nature, she said, adding that she appreciated the work of AADL director Josie Parker and Ken Nieman, AADL associate director of finance, HR and operations.
Prue Rosenthal asked how much additional revenues the 1.92 mills would raise. Nieman replied that if the full millage were levied, it would bring in about $1.6 million more in revenues.
Ed Surovell noted that the 1.55 mills is lower than what the library has levied in the past. As recently as 2008-09, the library had levied the full amount. The rate was lowered to 1.55 mills in 2009-10 and has stayed at that rate. From The Chronicle’s report of the May 18, 2009 AADL board meeting:
In the past they’ve levied 1.92 mills but have been operating on 1.55 mills – the difference was set aside and used to pay for building projects, such as the Traverwood branch. Barbara Murphy noted that when she first joined the board, AADL had been operating at 1.65 mills. She said that when Parker and her staff came on board seven years ago, they managed to lower the operating costs while improving service, and that they should be commended for that.
Surovell called it great progress that AADL was levying a lower amount. Jan Barney Newman said it was especially impressive, in light of everything the library has been able to accomplish.
Outcome: Board members unanimously set the millage rate at 1.55 mills.
AADL 2012-13 Budget: Line Item
A third resolution related to the 2012-13 budget designated it as a line-item budget and set a policy for disbursements. [.pdf of line-item/disbursements resolution]
There was no discussion on this item.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to set a line-item budget and policy for disbursements.
Ken Nieman, AADL associate director of finance, HR and operations, gave a brief financial report for the month of April. At the end of the month, the library had an unrestricted cash balance of $9.7 million, and has received nearly 98% of its budgeted tax receipts for the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2012.
Two items that are currently over budget – materials and circulation supplies – are expected to come back in line by the end of the fiscal year, Nieman said. [The report indicates that to date, materials are $4,741 over budget, while circulation supplies are over budget by $2,614.][.pdf of financial report]
Neiman said the fund balance of $8.17 million is “pretty healthy” heading into the next fiscal year.
For the current fiscal year, the library finance staff is projecting a surplus of $292,025.
The board had no questions or comments on the financial report.
At the May 21 meeting, board members gave their annual evaluation to AADL director Josie Parker, which they had discussed with her during an executive session at the start of the meeting. It was overwhelmingly positive.
Board president Margaret Leary read aloud a two-page letter to Parker that had been vetted by all board members. [.pdf of evaluation letter] The letter states that Parker’s salary will remain unchanged at $143,114 and that the board believes her salary to be equitable with comparable positions.
The letter describes Parker’s performance as excellent, and lists several areas of accomplishment, including the attraction and retention of top talent, consistency in presenting a balanced budget, and creativity in providing new services. The letter also points to challenges ahead.
From the letter:
We are aware that AADL’s community relations efforts have succeeded in creating demand beyond what our existing facilities can support. The big challenge to all of us in the coming year – and the biggest challenge for you – is to lead the effort to determine the best path for ensuring that AADL lives up to what our community expects, in all regards. The coming year will present new demands that are not completely foreseeable. Ann Arbor is a special community, founded and built on learning and information. The Ann Arbor District Library has increasingly been central to our community and its growth and prosperity. Now AADL has to decide whether its downtown facility is up to providing what the community deserves.
The reference to a downtown facility reflects a decision by the board and top staff to explore the possibility of a new building, in place of the current four-story structure at 343 S. Fifth Ave.
A recent survey commissioned by AADL – and presented to the board at its April 16, 2012 meeting – indicates voter support for a tax increase to pay for major renovations or reconstruction of that building.
When Leary finished reading the letter, the board gave Parker a round of applause.
Parker responded by saying that 18-year-olds who are graduating from high school this time of year are typically told to choose a career that they love. ”And I do – I love what I do,” she said. “I could do a lot of things, and I chose to do this.”
Parker noted that she’s held this position for 10 years, and plans to continue. ”There isn’t right now a better place to do it.”
Parker also said she enjoys the people she works with, and that makes a huge difference. She concluded by thanking the board for their support.
Outcome: This was not an action item – no vote was taken.
Friends of the AADL Space-Use Agreement
The board was asked to approve a one-year extension to the space-use agreement with Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library.
Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library (FAADL) is a nonprofit that operates a used bookstore in the lower level of AADL’s downtown branch at 343 S. Fifth Ave. Proceeds of the store – about $90,000 annually – are given to the library. At its May 2011 meeting, the AADL board had also approved a one-year extension to the space use agreement. [.pdf file of FAADL space-use agreement] On Monday, essentially the same agreement was proposed for another year.
There was minimal discussion on this item. Board president Margaret Leary said it was wonderful that Friends are using the space and generating revenues for the library.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the one-year extension of the space-use agreement with FAADL.
Most of Josie Parker’s report focused on the May 9 VISIONS 2012 Vendor Fair, held at Washtenaw Community College in partnership with WCC and the Michigan Commission for the Blind. The event featured three dozen exhibitors of products and services for the blind and visually impaired. It was hosted by AADL, which administers the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled.
About 400 people attended from across Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, Parker said. Many came for the opportunity to try out technology and devices in person – exhibitors showcased magnifiers, electronic readers, Braille devices, therapy and service dogs, and other support products and services for the blind and physically disabled.
In addition to vendors, there were four speakers, including Neil Bernstein of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the “AT Guys,” who specialize in assistive technology.
Prue Rosenthal asked if there is anything else like this in southeast Michigan. Parker replied that Wayne County Subregional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will host a vendor fair in October, but it will be much smaller.
Ed Surovell wondered if there would be a benefit for the AADL event to be even bigger. Does anyone gain if it’s marketed more broadly? Parker said there’s no downside to AADL – she wants as many people to come as possible. She noted that most people came with a companion – a person or a dog – to help guide them. There were also volunteers to provide that service at the event, so it gets pretty crowded. If more people attend, a larger venue would be needed, she said.
Parker mentioned one other item in her director’s report – the May 12 It’s All Write! Teen Short Story Writing Contest hosted at the AADL downtown building. The guest speaker was Caitlin Horrocks, who published her first short story collection in 2011 – “This Is Not Your City.” Parker noted that Horrocks had won AADL’s teen short story contest in 1997. This year, 350 submissions were received from teens in grades 6-12. A list of 2012 winners in several categories is posted on the AADL website.
Present: Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.
Absent: Nancy Kaplan, Barbara Murphy.
Next meeting: Monday, June 18, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]
The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor District Library board. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!