Library to Put $65M Bond on Nov. Ballot

As anticipated, the Ann Arbor District Library board voted to put a 30-year, $65 million bond proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved by voters, the bond would fund construction of a new downtown library on the same site as its current building, at the northeast corner of South Fifth and William. The vote took place at the board’s July 16, 2012 meeting and was unanimous.

The board also voted to set a special meeting on Monday, July 30 at 7 p.m. to approve ballot language for the bond proposal.

Earlier in the meeting, the board set the length of the bond at 30 years – on a 4-3 vote. The original proposal had been for a 25-year bond, but board member Ed Surovell argued strongly for the longer period. A chart provided to the board gave estimates of possible bond amounts, terms and millage rates.

A 25-year, $65 million bond would have an estimated interest rate of 5% and a millage rate of 0.59 mills. A 29-year, $65 million bond had a higher estimated interest rate of 5.25%, but a lower millage rate of 0.56 mills. It’s better for taxpayers to pay a lower millage rate, Surovell said, even though the total interest payments would be higher under the longer-term scenario – $64.669 million in interest for the 29-year bond, compared to $51.478 million for the 25-year term. [Details on the interest and millage rates will vary, depending on market conditions when the bonds are issued.]

In addition to Surovell, board members voting in favor of the 30-year term were Rebecca Head, Margaret Leary, and Jan Barney Newman. Voting for the 25-year term were Nancy Kaplan, Barbara Murphy and Prue Rosenthal.

Two people spoke during public commentary at the meeting. Lyn Davidge and David Diephuis both urged the board to support renovation of the existing building rather than a new structure. During the board discussion, all trustees cited reasons why they believe that renovation isn’t an acceptable alternative. Those reasons centered on infrastructure and the current building’s configuration. Head noted that even if they invested in a renovation, the outcome wouldn’t give the library what it needs to serve local residents. Features like a tiered auditorium, more meeting rooms, more capacity for cabling, and reconfigured space for security purposes were among the attributes that board members said are needed.

For more background and details about the proposed building project, see Chronicle coverage: “AADL Board to Vote on New Downtown Library.”

In another action related to this project, the board voted to amend its charge to the special facilities committee, which had been tasked with making a recommendation on the downtown library. The committee – of Rosenthal, Surovell and Kaplan – will continue to serve through 2012, making recommendations to the board on issues leading up to the Nov. 6 vote, as well as on next steps after the bond proposal is approved or rejected by voters.

This brief was filed from the fourth floor conference room of the Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave., where the library board meets. A more detailed report will follow: [link]