What is a millage rate?
A millage rate is another term for tax. It does not sound friendly, yet the Library's budget is less than 1% of the County's $4 billion budget. The Library is in a Special Taxing District, which means funds are not flexible, and cannot be pulled from another area of the county. This is also to ensure that the taxes levied are solely used for the Library.
How much of my taxes go to the Library?
From 2011 - 2014, the Library's millage rate levied $.17 cents for every $100 of a home's assessed taxable value. During that time, for a home appraised at $100,000, the taxpayer pays $17.25 -- for the entire year, for all residents at that address.
Yet, this level funding was a drastic cut over the years -- and was not sustainable for our Libraries.
With your voices and support, Commissioners voted for a minimal tax increase to .284 mills for our Libraries, which levied $53 million for our Library's budget for FY'14-'15. Last year's win had a profound impact for our Library system, which had been teetering on the brink of destructive service cuts.
I heard the Library got a tax increase. Does this mean the Library is now fully-funded?
Our original goal for FY'14-'15 was to have the millage for the library increased to .3419, which would have levied an estimated budget of $64 million. This would have allowed the library to sustain services with no reduction in hours, no cuts to staff, no cuts to any lending services, increased material budget with improvements to technology, infrastructure and more, as recommended by the members of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future of MDPLS. This target number was advocated for by CALM and our partners in the Coalition.
See our full review
of the fight at County Hall on July 15, 2014, where a .284 millage was approved and championed by Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Xavier Suarez, in a 8 - 5 vote. We did not lose that day, but it was not what the community fully deserves.
The community has made it's opinion very clear about how strongly we want (and need!) a robust Library system. Yet, with just a 'status-quo' budget, there yet remains little money left for new collection materials (books, ebooks, databases, etc), the restoration of service hours cut in 2011, technology enhancements, building maintenance (the air-conditioning is not functioning properly at a number of library branches, most prominently the West Dade Regional Library), software upgrades, and program expansions that would have otherwise expanded the scope of the library, such as the revitalization of the essential Project LEAD service. Furthermore, it would have made the library 'fiscally-healthy' by building back up the reserves which had been depleted to run the library 'as-is' from the past 4 years.
Click here to see an analysis of what funding at "status-quo" means, by the Miami Herald.
On September 4th, during the Final Budget Meeting, the Library's budget became veto-proof, and a .284 millage rate was approved, 9 - 4.
So what did the Library do with the minimal tax increase?
With an increase of roughly $3 million in the operating budget, MDPLS has been able to:
- expand operating hours to include 7 day operations in regional and some inner-city branches (though there is yet to be an increase in evening operating hours)
Free online tutoring service for students K - 12 through Tutor.com - all accessible with your library card, even from home
Free streaming video, music and audiobooks from Hoopla
Free online skills classes ranging from starting your own business to building your own website -- from Lynda.com and Treehouse -- both services that typically come attached with a paid subscription (also accessible from home)
(See a full list of the Library's databases here)
- Mobile printing from your device (tablet, cellphone, laptop, home computer) using your email address, to select library locations
- A doubled library material's collection from $1.2 million to $3 million, including: double the budget for Children's books and materials, a substantial increase in eBooks and eAudiobooks, and online magazines.
- Begin renovations, both cosmetic and structurally, in some library branches, including the Civic Center Kiosk and West Dade Regional's Children's room
By the remainder of the fiscal year, MDPLS' plans include:
- A re-purposed mobile vehicle into a "Technobus"
- A new YOUmedia Miami South in South Dade Regional Library (work has begun here in refitting the former fiction area)
- Two makerspaces: in Miami Beach Regional and Main Library
My main question is -- will I get a tax increase?
With funding from a homeowner with a $100,000 of assessed taxable value on their property, the tax for the Library district will about $28.40 for the entire year.
Since the library has its own special taxing district, only the library millage would be raised -- the average increase would be approximately ~$10 more for the entire year, with a millage rate at approximately .284, or, 28 cents for every $1000 of assessed taxable value.
Is this a tax increase?
Yes, technically. We would never want to be untruthful. Yet, in 2011, cuts were made to the Library System in lieu of tough economic times. In order to maintain the same level of service, MDPLS was forced to continuously withdraw from their reserves. As such, the increase to .284 mills it is not so much a tax increase as it is a restoration of some of the funding to this vital community service to maintain the services as it has been operating.
Currently, to bring the Library into current technology trends, and to finally recover from the drastic cuts of previous years, the level of funding for the Library is not yet ideal and ought to be increased to the originally advocated for: $64 million.
So how can I help?
The most important asset in this campaign is you -- the taxpayer, the voter, the resident of Miami-Dade County. This is your public service! Your voice counts!
- First and foremost, please write/call/tweet your elected officials. Even if you have written them once before, please feel free to do so again! You can even ask to meet with them to speak about the Library funding.
- Second, man-power is key to a grassroots campaign. Can you volunteer to host a petitioning event? What about reaching out to community organizations?
- Finally, to send out mailers, flyers, promote key events such as budeetings at the CC, can you donate?