Library Board Weighs Pittsfield Twp. Proposal

Pittsfield's State Road corridor improvement authority would capture taxes from Ann Arbor District Library, other entities; unlike creation of Ann Arbor DDA, this time AADL board has option to opt out

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 16, 2013): Representatives from Pittsfield Township briefed AADL trustees about a proposed State Road corridor improvement authority (CIA) that would entail capturing a percentage of taxes from several local entities, including the Ann Arbor District Library.

Dick Carlisle, Craig Lyon, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Consultant Dick Carlisle and Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, attended the Sept. 16, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor District Library board, which was held at the Malletts Creek branch on East Eisenhower. The men gave a presentation on a proposed State Road corridor improvement authority in the township. (Photos by the writer.)

Planning consultant Dick Carlisle and Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, described the new authority and the roughly $30 million in improvements it would fund between the I-94 interchange and Michigan Avenue. The intent is to create a four-lane boulevard with a median, bike lanes and pedestrian pathway.

The library’s Pittsfield branch is located in the township, and a portion of the AADL district is included in the northern part of the proposed CIA. Under the CIA’s tax increment financing plan, 50% of the increase in taxable value would be captured over a 20-year period to fund the CIA projects. The captured taxes would otherwise go to the entities that levy those taxes. Currently, AADL receives about $8,536 in taxes from taxpayers in the proposed CIA boundaries.

In responding to questions from trustees, Carlisle alluded to ongoing controversy related to the TIF capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. He said that’s why Pittsfield Township is offering to enter into specific agreements with each taxing jurisdiction “that will carefully spell out the limitations on what will actually occur here. So this way, there is no blank check. It is very specific that what we are saying here is exactly what we are going to do.”

A two-year disagreement has persisted over the way the Ann Arbor DDA  calculates its TIF capture, which includes capture of AADL taxes. For the latest Chronicle coverage on this issue, see: “Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged.”

When the Ann Arbor DDA was formed in the early 1980s, the state enabling legislation for DDAs did not allow for taxing jurisdictions to opt out of participation. However,  CIA legislation includes an opt-out provision. AADL and other taxing entities will have a 60-day period to make that decision. That period is expected to begin when the Pittsfield Township board holds a public hearing about the CIA proposal on Oct. 9.

Based on questions from AADL trustees, they may be skeptical about whether participating in the CIA would be a wise move for the library.

The CIA presentation was the library board’s main agenda item on Sept. 16. The board also reviewed data for the month of August in five categories: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. In addition, associate director Eli Neiburger presented highlights from the AADL summer game, which wrapped up last month.

During her director’s report, Josie Parker noted that AADL recently released an archive feature on the history of the Ann Arbor Garden Club. It’s part of a broader archiving effort on local history, which includes architecture, cooking, the Ann Arbor police department and several other organizations and topics. Parker said AADL staff would be pleased to talk to anyone who’s interested in archiving the history of other local organizations online.

Parker also told trustees that she’s been invited by the Journal of Library Administration to serve on its editorial board and to write a quarterly column. The journal has historically been limited to administration in academic and specialty libraries, but the new editor and review board wanted to add a public library administrator’s voice to the publication. “I’ve been invited to be that voice, and I’ve accepted,” Parker said.

Items raised during public commentary on Sept. 16 related to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the 2012 library bond campaign, as well as a plea to renovate the front entrance of the downtown library “from bunker chic to pedestrian friendly.” A topic mentioned at the AADL board’s Aug. 19, 2013 meeting was replacement of the front doors to the downtown library, and possibly undertaking broader renovations at the entrance.

Pittsfield Township Corridor Improvement Authority

Craig Lyon, director of utilities and municipal services for Pittsfield Township, and Dick Carlisle of Carlisle Wortman Associates made a presentation to the AADL board about the township’s proposed corridor improvement authority (CIA) for State Road, south of Ann Arbor.

Carlisle Wortman Associates is the planner for this project, as well as the township’s overall planning consultant. Lyon gave a brief introduction, explaining that the project extends from the I-94 interchange with South State, down through the intersection at Ellsworth and continuing south on State Road to Michigan Avenue. He traced the project’s impetus to 2006, when the Washtenaw County road commission began studying the corridor and determined that there was heavy traffic congestion, and that the road can’t provide the level of service that’s needed. It impacts businesses and residents, Lyon noted. “Going down there at about 4:30 in the afternoon is a lot of fun,” he joked, referring to the congestion at rush hour.

Ann Arbor District Library, Pittsfield Township, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

A view showing the northern portion of the proposed corridor improvement authority (CIA) for State Road in Pittsfield Township, starting at the I-94 interchange. The red parcels indicate land that’s developed. Yellow parcels are undeveloped land. (Image links to .pdf file showing entire corridor boundaries.)

Carlisle expanded on details of the project, which would be phased over a 20-year period. South of Ellsworth, State Road currently is two lanes, and has been inadequate for the amount of traffic since well before 2006, he said. It’s a major conduit between Ann Arbor and communities in southern Washtenaw County, including Pittsfield Township and the city of Saline. He noted that part of Pittsfield Township is in AADL’s district. The corridor also is a major center for economic activity that benefits all the taxing jurisdictions, Carlisle said, including AADL. That economic activity could be jeopardized and stifled because of inadequate road infrastructure, he noted.

Most of the township’s major employers are located near State Road, and over 40% of land near the corridor is zoned for businesses, primarily research & development, light manufacturing and other industries that provide “quality jobs” for people in the county, Carlisle said.

The first step in this kind of project is to conduct an environmental assessment, Carlisle said, to qualify the project for federal funding. The environmental assessment identified the preferred design for State Road as a boulevard style – a four-lane road with a central median, similar to the section of Eisenhower Parkway that also intersects with State to the north. The design would also accommodate non-motorized transportation, with bike lanes and a 10-foot pathway for pedestrians. Roundabouts would be added at Morgan, Textile and Old State Street, similar to the roundabout at Ellsworth.

When completed, traffic flow and safety will be improved, Carlisle said, and the corridor will accommodate all types of users, including vehicles, pedestrians, mass transit and bicyclists. He noted that Pittsfield Township has been involved in efforts to try to expand transit options in the county. The improved corridor would also promote economic development, Carlisle said, noting that 40% of the property in that area is now vacant.

The project is estimated to cost $30 million, in 2012 dollars. The challenge for any local government, especially townships, is the fact that townships don’t have a separate funding authority to pay for roads, Carlisle said. To qualify for federal funding, the township has to raise 20% in matching funds, he noted. He said the county road commission won’t invest in road capacity projects like this.

A corridor improvement authority (CIA) is a mechanism to raise the money, Carlisle explained. It would affect the AADL because the library levies taxes on a small portion of the proposed CIA, he said, on the northern end.

The CIA allows the township to raise money through tax increment financing (TIF). The first step to do that is to create a development and tax increment financing plan, which the Pittsfield Township board voted unanimously to receive at its Sept. 11, 2013 meeting. The township board would still need to vote to adopt the plan at a later date. [.pdf of Pittsfield Township CIA development and TIF plan] At that same Sept. 11 meeting, the township board adopted the CIA’s bylaws and rules of procedure. [.pdf of Pittsfield Township CIA bylaws and rules]

The TIF plan establishes a base year – in this case 2013. Eligible taxing jurisdictions would retain all tax revenues from the base year taxable value. By law, a TIF authority could capture 100% of the increase in taxable value over that base year, or it could capture just a portion of that increase. Pittsfield Township is proposing to capture 50% of the increase in taxable value.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL board members listen to a presentation about the proposed Pittsfield Township corridor improvement authority (CIA), given by Dick Carlisle and Craig Lyon.

So AADL would keep the amount of taxes in the base year, Carlisle said, plus 50% of any increase in tax revenues that is tied to the increase in taxable value of property in the CIA. This TIF capture would be in effect throughout the 20-year span of the CIA, he said.

The jurisdictions that collect taxes within the CIA boundaries are: Pittsfield Township, Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County parks & recreation, Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority (metro parks), Washtenaw Community College, Saline District Library, and Ann Arbor District Library.

Any of the jurisdictions have the ability to opt out of the CIA, Carlisle noted. That decision must occur within 60 days of the township’s public hearing on the development and TIF plan. He said the township was sensitive to the fact that other taxing jurisdictions would want as much information as possible in order to make a decision, and that’s why he and Lyon were making presentations in advance of the point at which a decision must be made.

TIF funds can only be spent in the CIA district, and only on projects that are included in the development plan, he said. Pittsfield Township’s plan is very specific and focused just on the roadway and associated improvements, he noted. “There are no hidden projects within this particular proposal,” he said.

The township will hold a public hearing on the CIA on Oct. 9. That starts the 60-day clock for taxing jurisdictions to decide whether to opt out. If the library board takes no action, that means the AADL would be participating for the CIA’s 20-year period.

The AADL would be affected in the following ways, Carlisle said:

  • The base year (2013) taxable value for the AADL within the CIA district is $5.507 million.
  • Currently, AADL receives about $8,536 in taxes from taxpayers in the CIA boundaries.
  • For the CIA’s 20-year duration, AADL would continue to receive its base year tax revenues. For any incremental increase in taxable value, the library would retain 50% of tax revenues. Carlisle estimated that in total over the 20-year period, that would amount to $120,436 for AADL.

Carlisle concluded by reiterating the benefits expected from the CIA: improved traffic operation and increased safety, an accommodation of different modes of transportation, and an increase in economic development that results in increased tax revenues for all jurisdictions.

Pittsfield Township CIA: Board Discussion

Margaret Leary asked for confirmation that the underlying state statue enabling a CIA – as opposed to a downtown development authority (DDA) – allows for a 50% split in tax capture, as well as an opt-out provision. Yes, Carlisle replied. Leary, retired director of the Law Library at the University of Michigan Law School, then asked for the specific statute that enabled the CIA. Carlisle said he didn’t have that information on hand, but he could provide it later. [The statute is Act 280 of the Public Act of 2005.]

Margaret Leary, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL trustee Margaret Leary.

Carlisle offered to paraphrase the statute. It states that the CIA can capture all or a portion of the tax increment from the eligible taxing jurisdictions. The statute is also very specific in stating that this is not something that can be imposed on the taxing jurisdictions, he said. “You have the ability to opt out.”

Carlisle also alluded to ongoing issues related to the Ann Arbor DDA. “We’re aware of some of the issues that have occurred elsewhere regarding tax increment financing,” he said. It’s understandable that there are concerns, so Pittsfield Township is offering to enter into specific agreements with each taxing jurisdiction “that will carefully spell out the limitations on what will actually occur here,” Carlisle said. “So this way, there is no blank check. It is very specific that what we are saying here is exactly what we are going to do.”

[By way of brief background, a two-year disagreement has persisted over the way the Ann Arbor DDA  calculates its TIF capture, which includes capture of AADL taxes. For the latest Chronicle coverage on this issue, see: "Library View on DDA TIF Capture: Unchanged."]

Carlisle told AADL trustees that details would be stated in an intergovernmental agreement between the township and each taxing jurisdiction. That agreement is in a draft form for the AADL board, administration and legal counsel to review. [Carlisle did not provide a copy of the draft agreement during the meeting, nor did he have on hand a copy of the draft development & TIF plan. Those were later sent to AADL administration and the board.] [.pdf of draft intergovernmental agreement] [.pdf of draft development & TIF plan]

As a board member, Leary said, she’d like to see such an agreement before she voted on whether to opt out.

Leary also asked for Carlisle’s comments regarding common criticisms of TIFs: (1) that TIFs take money that voters thought would go to AADL, and would allow the CIA to use that money for other purposes without the permission of taxpayers; and (2) that TIFs also take responsibility out of the hands of elected officials, like the AADL board, for determining how that money is spent.

Carlisle argued that the CIA’s TIF wouldn’t be taking responsibility out of the AADL board’s hands, because the AADL board would be entering into an agreement about how the TIF money would be spent. If that agreement isn’t followed, the board would have means to seek remedy, he said. Leary asked what the remedy would be. Anything that’s outlined in the intergovernmental agreement, Carlisle replied.

Lyon explained that the agreement will clearly state that the funds generated through the TIF can only be spent on items identified in the development & TIF plan. The AADL board would have control by making a decision upfront on how the TIF money will be spent over a 20-year period, he said.

Leary then observed that it seemed the remedy, if this agreement is violated, would be for the library to sue the township. Carlisle replied that there could be other means of remedy identified in the agreement, but he did not give any example of what such an alternative might be.

Regarding Leary’s question about taxpayer intent, Carlisle characterized it as the largest philosophical debate surrounding the TIF concept. The question is whether the taxing jurisdictions would receive the benefit of an increased tax base, if the improvement weren’t made. “I would suggest you would not,” he said. As evidence, Carlisle pointed to the Jackson Road boulevard project in Scio Township, which began in 1987. That has resulted in over a 300% increase in taxable value there, he said. He didn’t think anyone would say that the economic development there would have occurred if Jackson Road had remained a two-lane road. “We believe the same thing is going to be true on State Road,” he said.

The nature of the development on State Road will likely be different, Carlisle continued, because it will be more of an employment corridor for high tech and other businesses. But it won’t happen without an improvement to State Road, he said.

Ed Surovell, Nancy Kaplan, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL trustees Ed Surovell and Nancy Kaplan.

Nancy Kaplan wondered what would happen if not enough of the taxing jurisdictions agree to participate. Carlisle replied that the township board would have to decide whether to continue. That’s one reason why he’s advising the township board not to adopt the development and TIF plan until after the 60-day opt-out period. If there’s not a critical mass of participating jurisdictions, the township board will need to decide if there are enough participants to proceed.

Some of these issues could be covered in the intergovernmental agreement, Carlisle said.

AADL director Josie Parker asked what would happen if it’s just a straight TIF proposal, with no separate intergovernmental agreement. Carlisle said that if the AADL doesn’t opt out, “then you are in.” Responding to another query from Parker, Carlisle said that the law requires a development and TIF plan, and that the plan must identify projects to be paid for with TIF revenues. If the projects are never implemented, “then the law requires that the money is returned to the taxing jurisdictions,” he said.

Leary asked for clarification about the opt-out process. Carlisle explained that the township will hold a public hearing about the CIA on Oct. 9 – the 60-day opt-out period begins at that point. The township board won’t adopt the development & TIF plan until after the opt-out period, but the plan won’t change during that time, he said.

Lyon said that the township board would likely vote to adopt the plan at their Dec. 11 meeting. Between Oct. 9 and Dec. 11, an agreement would be developed between AADL and the township. Starting in 2014, the CIA would capture the TIF revenues. The first phase of construction wouldn’t likely begin until enough funds are accumulated through the CIA, which would probably take 5-6 years, Lyon said.

Prue Rosenthal wondered what would happen if only a couple of the taxing jurisdictions participated. Carlisle replied that the project would have to be scaled back to fit the available financing.

Kaplan asked why the township was pursing the CIA approach, rather than issuing bonds for this project. Carlisle described a TIF as the most equitable way to finance a project that benefits more than just the township. With a bond, it would only be the taxpayers of Pittsfield Township who would pay, he added. He noted that Pittsfield Township will be participating too, in that 50% of its tax revenues within the CIA district will be captured for the project.

Kaplan then asked if Pittsfield Township paid for the environmental assessment. Lyon replied that federal funds helped pay for that.

Leary wondered what other options the township has for raising this money. “Nothing,” Lyon replied. Carlisle added that the township could pay for it with its own tax revenue, “at the peril of all other services.” He reiterated that bonding would require payment by the township’s taxpayers, even though the project would benefit a much broader constituency.

Leary pointed out that the effect would be to raise Pittsfield Township’s tax base. Yes, Lyon said, but it would raise the tax revenues for other taxing jurisdictions too, including AADL. He noted that one of the main differences between Pittsfield Township and the city of Ann Arbor,  or any city, is that the township doesn’t capture any Act 51 (gas tax) dollars from the state. If the township could get Act 51 money, then “the dynamics of this scenario would completely change,” Lyon said.

All of the township’s roads are under the jurisdiction of the Washtenaw County road commission, Lyon explained. And the road commission has indicated that it won’t participate in this project, because it’s a capacity-building project, not a road maintenance project.

Prue Rosenthal, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Prue Rosenthal, AADL board president.

Parker asked if that was an arbitrary decision made by the road commission. No, Carlisle said, not if you consider the diminished funding that the road commission has received. Like all road commissions in that state, he added, “they’re generally scrambling just to try to maintain what they have.”

Parker got clarification that the road commission does, in fact, have discretion to do this kind of project. Carlisle replied that the road commission could do it, but it would take away from other road improvement projects in the county.

Kaplan wanted to know if the township was going to use the power of eminent domain to take property in order to widen the road. Carlisle said there will be “some necessity for right-of-way acquisition.” However, condemnation is the last resort, he said, although the CIA does have that authority.

When asked who specifically will be making the decisions for the CIA, Lyon replied that the CIA has its own board, which includes the township supervisor, Mandy Grewal. Other members are Claudia Kretschmer (business representative), Roger Jackson (business representative), Bill Linfield (business representative), Bill Reminder (township resident), and David Sarns (business representative), who serves as chair. Lyon is a liaison between the CIA board and the township board, which appointed the CIA board members.

Leary asked when the AADL board could get copies of the interlocal agreement and the development and TIF plan. Carlisle told her that he could provide those the following day. [.pdf of draft interlocal agreement] [.pdf of development & TIF plan]

In describing her view toward the CIA, Leary said she could understand how an entity like the county parks & recreation commission might embrace it, because the CIA’s goals mirror many of the goals in the parks & rec strategic plan, like improving non-motorized transportation and increasing pedestrian access. Therefore, the parks & rec commission has a motive to financially support the CIA, because it would otherwise spend its own money on projects that are part of the corridor improvements.

However, Leary added, “I’m struggling because [the library is] not here to provide transportation.” Leary said she understands how the improvements would benefit AADL and she understands how tax increment financing works. But she was struggling with how to justify taking $120,000 out of the library’s revenues – or whatever the amount will turn out to be. She noted that no one knows how much could be involved, because it depends on the economy and other factors. It would be less than $120,000 – or more. Participating in the CIA would take that money away from books, speakers, building improvements – “all of the things that we were authorized by the voters who elected us to do,” Leary said.

Outcome: This was not a voting item.

Financial Report

Ken Nieman – the library’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – gave a brief report on the August 2013 financial statements included in the board packet. [.pdf of financial statements]

The unrestricted cash balance was $13.75 million as of Aug. 31, 2013. That’s mainly due to the receipt of taxes collected in July. By the end of August, the library had received 65.2% ($7.465 million) of its budgeted tax receipts. [The library's fiscal year starts July 1. Summer property taxes are collected in July.] The fund balance at the end of August was $8.056 million.

Four items are currently over budget but are expected to come back in line as the year progresses, Nieman reported. The over-budget line items are: (1) employment costs related to merit increases; (2) purchased services; (3) communications, for an annual Internet-related payment; and (4) software.

There was nothing out of the ordinary, he concluded.

Financial Report: Board Discussion

Nancy Kaplan pointed out that at last month’s meeting, a member of the public [Lyn Davidge] had asked that explanations be given for any major financial items, such as claims. Kaplan asked Nieman to report on variances for two line items in the budget – materials and LCards/circulation cards. [Materials through Aug. 31 had been budgeted at $145,833 and the actual amount in that line item is $92,210. For LCards, the budgeted amount of $6,000 is unspent so far.]

Nieman said those items reflect timing issues. For materials, more money will be spent later in the year when new releases come out. Spending on LCards usually comes in “big chunks,” he said, because large amounts of library cards are ordered whenever the library is close to running out of them. Orders are typically $5,000. So the amounts can fluctuate, depending on when the need to order arises.

There was no additional discussion, nor any discussion about the August disbursements, which require board approval. [.pdf of August disbursements]

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the August 2013 disbursements.

Director’s Report

AADL director Josie Parker highlighted several items from her written director’s report. [.pdf of September director's report] She noted that associate director Celeste Choate had been invited to make a presentation at the National Institutes of Health Partners in Research 6th annual Clinical and Translational Science Award conference in Bethesda, Maryland. The conference theme was “Science of Community-Engaged Research,” which is something that Choate has been working on for several years, Parker said.

Parker reported that a photo from AADL’s participation in the 2010 Top of the Park will be included in a slideshow by the American Library Association titled “60 Ways to Use Your Library Card,” as part of ALA’s National Library Card month.

Also, AADL has scanned issues of the Ann Arbor Sun, which will be included in Independent Voices, a collection of alternative newspapers, journals and magazines. Independent Voices is published by Reveal Digital, based in Saline. It’s part of a broader effort– including the licensing work that associate director Eli Neiburger described to the board at its Aug. 19, 2013 meeting – to get as much information out to the public as possible, Parker said. It demonstrates what open access can do, she noted, without violating anyone’s copyright.

Parker also reported that on Sept. 11, AADL released an archive feature on the history of the Ann Arbor Garden Club. It’s part of a broader archiving effort on local history, which includes architecture, cooking, the Ann Arbor police department and several other organizations and topics. Parker said AADL staff would be pleased to talk to anyone who’s interested in archiving a local organization’s history online.

Parker told trustees that she’s been invited by the Journal of Library Administration to serve on its editorial board and to write a quarterly column. The journal has historically been limited to administration in academic and specialty libraries, but the new editor and review board wanted to add a public library administrator’s voice to the publication. “I’ve been invited to be that voice, and I’ve accepted,” Parker said. She received a round of applause from the board.

Finally, Parker highlighted a Sept. 5 article in the Michigan Daily by Noah Cohen: “Literati story continues to unfold.” It’s about bookstores and reading, but the article includes the Ann Arbor District Library as part of the conversation, Parker said, “because it’s that important of a place, like bookstores, for readers and reading.” From the article:

Even on dates, since I never had a car, I’d just say, “Meet me in Borders; I’ll be in the young adult section.” That was what downtown meant — Borders, Shaman Drum, Michigan Book & Supply, Dawn Treader, Vault of Midnight, David’s Bookshop and the Ann Arbor Public Library. Not a coffee shop nor a park; not a pub nor an arcade. We had those, but they couldn’t be home base. They didn’t have the magic gravity.

Library Stats

At the board’s Aug. 19, 2013 meeting, trustees had received a briefing on a new format for presenting AADL statistics. On Sept. 16, Eli Neiburger – AADL’s associate director of IT and product development – continued with this approach, providing details in five categories for the month of August: Collections, users, visits, usage and participation. In addition, Neiburger reviewed highlights from the AADL summer game. The data also includes comparisons to August 2012, when available.

Ann Arbor District LIbrary, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL collections data: August 2013

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL user data: August 2013

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL visits: August 2013

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL usage data: August 2013

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL participation data: August 2013

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL Summer Game data: August 2013

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

AADL Summer Game data (badge awards): August 2013

Neiburger provided highlights of the statistics from each category, and fielded a wide variety of questions from trustees. In the usage category, for example, 9,592 documents (.pdf files) were downloaded from the AADL website in August 2013, representing a 10.3% increase compared to the previous year. Documents include, for example, full versions of heritage cookbooks in the Ann Arbor Cooks collection – “the things with the squirrel recipes,” Neiburger said.

Ed Surovell, who collects rare books, joked that where he grew up, people still eat squirrels. Neiburger noted that at one point, the library had received a complaint from a member of the public, who felt that the cookbooks “were not being fair to Ann Arbor’s furry friends.” Margaret Leary asked if there were groundhog recipes. Neiburger ventured that there probably were – or he imagined a squirrel recipe would probably work pretty well as a substitute.

Regarding the summer game, AADL director Josie Parker noted that library staff contributes to ideas for “badges,” which can be earned by completing specific tasks and accumulating points. She offered trustees the opportunity to come up with their own ideas for badges next year, if they’d like. “I came up with one, so you can do it too!” she said. Players could earn Parker’s badge – called Josie’s Catfish – by going to her office and finding the game code in the mouth of a stuffed toy catfish.

Outcome: This was not a voting item.

Committee Reports

The board has six committees: communications, budget and finance, facilities, policy, director’s evaluation and executive. Board president Prue Rosenthal reported that none of the committees had met since the August board meeting, so there were no reports.

Public Commentary

During public commentary at the beginning of the Sept. 16 meeting, Don Salberg told the board that he was speaking on behalf of Libby Hunter, who had asked him to read a statement because she couldn’t attend the meeting. She had sent a Freedom of Information Act request earlier in the day asking for emails and all written documents between AADL staff, the board and consultants regarding the 2012 library bond campaign, from Jan. 1, 2012 through Sept. 16, 2013. Salberg read the letter that Hunter had sent to AADL director Josie Parker to make the FOIA request.

Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Staff and members of the public at the Sept. 16 AADL board meeting, held at the Malletts Creek branch.

Lou Glorie also addressed the trustees. She noted that issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including projects that might impact accessibility, were discussed at the AADL board’s August meeting. At that meeting, she said, it was reported that the library is largely in compliance with ADA, and that the downtown building is accessible to users with disabilities even in areas where compliance isn’t possible. “But of course, we can do better,” she said. Since it appears that AADL will be making renovations to the downtown library’s entrance, it’s a good time to make that building more accessible.

Glorie hoped that at least one door could be widened, “and the horrible jumble of concrete fronting Fifth Avenue can be made less hazardous.” She urged the board to think about how the multiple levels of the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue would be experienced by patrons with visual impairments – for example, someone who uses a walker who is dropped off in front of the building.

Even if that area is legally compliant with ADA rules, it’s still not easy to use “and is certainly not attractive,” Glorie said. Last month, she noted, Ken Nieman – the library’s associate director of finance, HR and operations – reported that the library had an unrestricted fund balance of $7.8 million. “I’m not saying blow it all on a fancy entrance,” she said, but she hoped the board would think about improving that area of the property to help move that section of Fifth Avenue “from bunker chic to pedestrian friendly.” The sidewalk improvements would likely be paid for by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, she said, but the library should start the process by incorporating a sidewalk renovation into whatever repairs happen at the entrance.

Glorie also remarked on another issue raised at the August board meeting. She said the board president had needed to formally clarify statements recorded in the minutes. She said she understood that Prue Rosenthal would not want to claim authorship of those comments. It’s often difficult for people to sort through minutes and get things right, Glorie said. One way to avoid this problem is to have the board and committee meetings recorded and broadcast by Community Television Network (CTN), Glorie noted. There would then be an unambiguous record of what was said, and by whom. Openness and transparency benefit not only the public, Glorie concluded, but also governing bodies acting in good faith.

[The clarification to the minutes had been made by Margaret Leary, a former AADL board president, not Rosenthal. Leary was clarifying a section of the minutes that transcribed public commentary from Bob Rorke, who read excerpts from email exchanges that the Protect Our Libraries political action committee obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. At the time of the email exchanges, Leary served as board president.]

Present: Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal, Ed Surovell. Also AADL director Josie Parker.

Absent: Rebecca Head, Barbara Murphy.

Next meeting: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the fourth-floor conference room of the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. [Check Chronicle event listing to confirm date]

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  1. By Douglas Jewett
    September 27, 2013 at 7:14 pm | permalink

    Board trustee Margaret Leary’s thoughtful comments and meticulous line of questioning regarding the proposed TIFF capture of AADL funds by the South State Street CIA are much appreciated. The people of Ann Arbor expect the AADL millage to be used for the libraries. What ever happened to the old-fashioned idea that you were supposed to be invited to opt into something only if you approved of the idea? How would you like to be presented with a marriage proposal that informed you that you were “in” unless you explicitly opted out? Irrespective of possible benefits, if these CIA proposals are encouraged in any way they will continue to pop up like whack-a-moles, making it increasingly hard for the taxpayers to keep a much needed eye on how their already overstretched resources are spent.

  2. By Donald J. Salberg
    September 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm | permalink

    Dear Ms. Parker,

    Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) has interested me for some time especially as it is used by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Therefore, I wish to offer my suggestions regarding the potential participation of the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) with Pittsdfield Township’s State Street Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA).

    As presented the CIA plans to improve the State Street roadway from Ellsworth Road south to US 12, about 2 1/2 miles. It proposes expanding the roadway to two lanes in either direction with a median strip separating the north from south roadways. The expected cost is $30 million which is to be spent over twenty years.

    The representatives stated that the expanded roadway will reduce traffic congestion and encourage more patrons to travel along South State Street in order to visit the Malletts Creek Library. Having driven the involved route on different occasions I can attest to the variability of traffic volume depending on the time of day and day of the week. Most of the time I expect that traffic congestion will not be a discouragement for patron of the Ann Arbor library system. Even with the most crowded conditions travel to Malletts Creek Library should take only five to ten minutes longer than if there were no traffic on the route. The representatives for the CIA plan offered no other rewards for the library from joining the CIA.

    On the other hand, the AADL will lose tax revenue if it joins the CIA and will receive no benefits in exchange as I mentioned above. TIF is only supposed to be collected when the property tax evaluation increases due to physical improvements. Thus, the AADL should not have to give up any of its tax (millage) revenue if it does not improve its property for tax purposes. Increases in property valuation due to inflation should not be subject to TIF, as is the case with properties subject to DDA TIF collections. HOWEVER, THE CIA REPRESENTATIVES TOLD ME LAST EVENING THAT THE AADL WOULD HAVE ITS INFLATED PROPERTY VALUE SUBJECTED TO TIF. The representative did say that the contract that will define the AADL’s participation in CIA could exclude from TIF consideration any increase in property valuation due to inflation but did not say that this arrangement is assured. I doubt that CIA officials will agree to the exclusion of inflation-increased property valuation from TIF treatment since the CIA will otherwise receive no revenue from the AADL.

    In summary, I see no advantages for the AADL to join the CIA but I do recognize loss of funding. If you agree with me then please discuss with other personnel and with the library board a decision to “opt out” of the CIA.

    Thank you,

    Donald J. Salberg, MD

  3. September 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm | permalink

    An additional factor is that AADL has not been collected the full amount of the millage for which it is authorized. If they lose revenue from part of their tax base, presumably they might need to consider increasing the millage collected, at which point taxpayers from the entire AADL district might in essence be subsidizing Pittsfield Township’s road.

    This issue exactly captures the Michigan township viewpoint on taxes and expenditures. Township governments generally do not like to levy taxes and always put on the green eyeshades when looking at how benefits are apportioned between their own taxpayers and other municipalities or other entities. They try to pay for no more than what they estimate to be their precise value obtained. This effort to claim benefit (and therefore, an account payable) for others in this road project is a case in point.

    It is reassuring to see that the AADL board is demanding documentation and precision on this matter. It is in stark contrast to the behavior of the AAATA board this week in approving an arrangement with Ypsilanti Township based on verbal assurances.

  4. By John Dory
    September 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm | permalink

    “…..the behavior of the AAATA board this week in approving an arrangement with Ypsilanti Township based on verbal assurances.”

    I guess it all depends if the “verbal assurances” are made by trustworthy officials.

    As one commentator once said “A verbal agreement is worth the paper its printed on.”