Voters Close The Book On Local Library Funding Requests - For Now
At Tuesday’s August Primary election, an overwhelming majority of voters in the Tri-Community (the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas and Saugatuck Township) turned down the two Saugatuck-Douglas District Library requests associated with the ambitious proposed project of building a new $5.1 million library.
Having just purchased the vacant lot at 152 Center St. - across the street and just down from the existing library - for $195,000, the library board was asking the electorate to approve a 26-year, 0.67-mill increase for a bond to build, furnish, and equip a new library ($5.1 million).
In a separate library ballot issue, voters were additionally asked to approve a 10-year, 0.3-mill tax hike for additional maintenance and utilities expenses for the new library.
Over a third of the Tri-Community’s registered voters showed up to vote Tuesday. In order to have been approved, the library’s two initiatives needed to pass by a majority vote, irrespective of municipality.
Both library ballot issues, however, were soundly defeated by local voters in both cities of Saugatuck and Douglas individually and cumulatively, and the township.
Due to problems with its tabulation system, the Allegan County Clerk’s Office initially and erroneously reported Tuesday night and Wednesday on its website that the City of Saugatuck had voted to approve the library request for operational funding. That was an innacurate report on those unofficial vote totals and has since been corrected.
The corrected, unofficial vote tallies from the Allegan County Clerk’s Office shows:
* The 0.67-mill request - to pay for the $5.1 million library building project - failed with 558 in support and 890 opposed.
* And the 0.3-mill request - for operational costs to run the proposed library - failed with 585 supporting it and 865 opposing.
In the township, the library millage got 433 no votes versus 324 yes votes, while the bond issue came to 467 no votes and 289 yes votes.
In the City of Douglas, the library millage came to 245 no versus 159 yes votes. The bond issue came in at 250 no versus 153 yes votes.
In the City of Saugatuck, the library millage saw 178 no votes and 110 yes votes. The bond issue vote saw 182 no votes and 108 yes votes.
“We need to understand why people voted no,” said disappointed library Board President Steven Oakley to The Holland Sentinel. “We need to figure out how to deal with that and turn it around.”
Library Director Martha Boetcher and Library Board Member Cathy Brockington, campaign chair of the Our Focus—Our Center—Our Future campaign, responsible for promoting and fundraising for the new library, could not be reached for comment about the library’s failed requests before voters.
Tuesday’s votes do not mean the current library is unfunded. It continues to collect the 0.4231 mills approved in the previous year which funds its current level operations.
If Tuesday’s initiative had passed, an owner of a property with a $200,000 assessed value, would have had an additional tax of $97 a year.