Cass District Library aims to restore original millage rate with ballot proposal

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Why is the library on the Aug. 2 ballot?

Cass District Library consists of five branch locations including the Main, Local History, Edwardsburg, Howard, and Mason Union branches and currently serves 38,000 county residents in Calvin, Howard, Jefferson, LaGrange, Mason, Milton, Newberg, Ontwa, Penn, Pokagon, Porter, and Volinia townships.

In 1993, residents in the district approved an operating millage in perpetuity of 0.75 mills. This rate has been reduced to 0.6386 due to Headlee Rollbacks. This reduction now equates to approximately $213,000 annually in lost revenues and further reductions will continue in the coming years.

In August 2022, Cass District Library will be seeking a Headlee override to restore the original millage rate. If approved, the millage would continue to fund the library in perpetuity. New revenues would be collected via the winter tax rolls and would generate approximately $213,000 in additional revenues the first year. The library has not sought any increases in revenues since 1993.

This replenished funding is critical as the current cost of deferred capital maintenance for the district is $806,446, according to a completed Facilities Master Plan. The library’s replenished funding will also help to bolster additional operating expenses including the purchase of new items for the collections, programming costs, and critical investments in updated technology, ensuring that all patrons have free access to an ever- growing roster of high-quality resources, in updated, inspiring, and welcoming facilities.  

What will the cost be for property owners?

The average property owner CDL’s service district will pay an additional $8.67 per year in taxes, just $0.72 a month

If the requested proposal passes, the new total operating millage will be 0.75 mills. The amount paid in taxes to support the library depends on the value of your property. To calculate the increase, take ½ the market value of your property and divide it by 1,000, then multiple that figure by 0.75 mills.

According to the most recent census data from July 2021, the median value of Cass County owner-occupied housing units is $155,600.

What are Headlee Rollbacks?

In 1978, voters in the state of Michigan approved Headlee Amendments to the state’s constitution. Headlee requires a local unit of government to reduce its millage when annual growth on existing property is greater than the rate of inflation. As a consequence, the local unit’s millage rate gets “rolled back” so that the resulting growth in property tax revenue, community-wide, is no more than the rate of inflation. A “Headlee override” is a vote by the electors to return the millage to the amount originally authorized via charter, state statute, or a vote of the people, and is necessary to counteract the effects of the “Headlee Rollback.” 

What is the exact ballot language?

Shall the Cass District Library, County of Cass, Michigan, be authorized to levy annually a new additional millage in an amount not to exceed .1114 mill ($.1114 on each $1,000 of taxable value) annually against all taxable property within the Cass District Library district in perpetuity beginning in the year 2022, for the purpose of providing funds for all district library purposes authorized by law?  The estimate of the revenue the Cass District Library will collect if the millage is approved and levied by the Cass District Library in the first year (2022) is approximately $213,000.  

While the ballot language states this is a “new additional millage,” which is a requirement by law, this request is to restore the library’s existing millage to its original amount.

How does the library benefit the community?

Since its establishment in 1993, Cass District Library has provided opportunities for learning and recreation for thousands in our community. More so than ever before, the library’s diverse offerings make a deep and positive lasting impact on our communities by bringing people together. Even during the pandemic, the library remained open and connected the public with internet access and materials.

  • More than 80,000 printed materials coupled with an ever growing digital collection of over 1 million downloadable and streaming eBooks, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, and more
  • Extensive online resources for factual and trustworthy research
  • Improved technology including free computer and Wi-Fi access, circulating Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots, faxing and printing services
  • Robust schedule of programs for children, adults, and families; frequent collaborations with other Cass area agencies
  • MeL resource sharing with other Michigan public libraries ensures patrons can borrow materials not in the local collection
  • Full restoration of the 1909 Carnegie Local History Branch, paid for in-full through careful management of tax revenues, ensuring that the important historical building is secure for generations

What happens if the millage passes?

Current service levels will be sustained and the library will be better positioned to respond to community demands. Critical funding can be dedicated to address the deferred capital maintenance expense of $806,446.  Collections will be kept up to date, improvements to technology for patrons can be implemented, and more programs can take place. In short, patrons can expect improvements in all facets of the library.

What happens if the millage fails?

Failure of this proposal would essentially ensure that work to address the deferred capital maintenance issues will not be able to occur. Failure would also place the library in an increasingly difficult position of continuing to offer current publications, quality programs, updated and maintained facilities, and the employment of qualified staff. 

Since the millage supports operating expenses, its failure will negatively impact operations and services district wide. Patrons should expect longer wait times, limited access to new services and technology, and fewer materials and programs. 

Where can I learn more about the library’s budget?

80% of the library’s funding comes from local millage revenues. Previous years’ annual budgets can be found on the library’s website here.

When and where do I vote?

To find your polling place, verify your voter registration, or to request an absentee ballot, visit Michigan Secretary of State or Cass County Clerk. You can also call any library branch location for assistance.

Election day is August 2nd, 2022. More information about voting times will be added as it is made available.

Who can I speak to about questions I have regarding the millage?

Library Director Barbara Gordon is happy to answer any questions about the proposal. She can be reached at or at 269-357-7822 ext. 101.