Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Nov. 11, 2013): In a 6-1 vote, AADL trustees approved a tax-sharing agreement for Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). Nancy Kaplan cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she couldn’t support diverting dollars that taxpayers had intended for the library.
For taxing entities that participate, a portion of revenues from local taxes would be used to provide matching dollars to help secure federal funding for road improvements and other features along the State Street corridor. The CIA covers a stretch roughly between Ellsworth and Michigan Avenue.
Although other trustees indicated that they shared Kaplan’s concerns, they were persuaded to support the CIA for several different reasons. Margaret Leary said she appreciated the transparency and openness of township officials during this process. She noted that in contrast to some other TIF arrangements, the tax-sharing agreement with the CIA is clear, comprehensive and was developed in a collaborative way. [Her reference to other TIF arrangements was likely an allusion to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. See Chronicle coverage: "Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged"]
Leary also pointed out that the CIA will create a situation that could benefit the AADL, which operates a branch in Pittsfield Township. If the overall tax base increases because of improvements to the State Street corridor, she said, then tax revenues for AADL will increase too. Barbara Murphy added that the amount of AADL tax revenue that will be diverted to the CIA is relatively small – about $120,000 over 20 years – compared to some other taxing entities.
Two people addressed the board during public commentary about the CIA. Prior to the vote, Christina Lirones – a former Pittsfield Township official – urged the board to opt out. At the end of the meeting, Don Salberg said he was disappointed in the board’s decision. He had expected AADL to opt out.
In addition to Pittsfield Township and AADL, other taxing entities within the CIA are Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County parks & recreation, Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority (metroparks), Washtenaw Community College, and Saline District Library. At its Nov. 12 meeting, the Saline library board voted to opt out of the CIA. The metroparks board also decided to opt out, with a vote at its Nov. 14 morning meeting. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners and the county’s parks & recreation commission both voted in support of the CIA. WCC trustees have not yet made a decision.
Also during the Nov. 11 meeting, AADL director Josie Parker highlighted the fact that AADL had been awarded a five-star ranking by the Library Journal – the highest ranking awarded by the journal for library use in a community. AADL is the only library system in Michigan that achieved that level, and has been awarded this designation for five consecutive years. AADL is the only library in Michigan to ever achieve five stars.
And during committee reports, Nancy Kaplan noted that the communications committee has reviewed a report from Allerton-Hill Consulting. [.pdf of Allerton-Hill report] Some of the recommendations in the report include expanding the use of social media, publishing a quarterly newsletter to keep library patrons informed, and conducting a satisfaction survey to determine the priorities and public perception of the library, and to learn more about who is using the library, and why. The administration will now determine whether and how to implement the report’s recommendations.
During public commentary, Kathy Griswold urged the board to be more open and transparent, specifically by recording its meetings for broadcast.