Green Township continues offering penal fines Reed City library

PARIS — Green Township will continue dividing its penal fines between the Reed City Public Library and Big Rapids Community Library, however officials may entertain further support based on what residents tell them.

During their monthly meeting on Tuesday, the township’s board of trustees approved a resolution to adopt a funding policy to send two-thirds of the township’s penal fines to the Big Rapids Community Library and one-third to the Reed City Public Library.

However, that could be amendable.

“The township will also continue to interact with our library users for their interest, use and support of the two library systems,” the resolution reads. “The board may entertain further supporting the libraries with a taxable millage voted by a majority of the township residents.”

Supervisor Bob Baldwin said if residents want more financial support of either library, they need to contact their elected officials.

“They need to advise of us of their wishes,” Baldwin said.

Trustees agreed with Baldwin, saying they need to voice their concerns.

“We have no control on the amount of receivables other than directing (the penal fines),” trustee James Chapman said. “Anything more to be spent is the people’s choice. This lays it out.”

The decision comes as both Reed City and Big Rapids have begun renovations on their libraries. The renovation in Big Rapids is expected to cost more than $1 million and to be finished in May.

City officials sat down with officials from Barton, Colfax, Grant, Green and Norwich townships on Sept. 30 to begin hashing out details of the future financial arraignment to best support the library. They are expected to meet more after the beginning of the year.

In the early 1990s, seven townships signed contracts with the city stating that each year they would fund 0.3 of a mill to the library through penal fines. If the penal fines didn’t add up to the amount of 0.3 of a mill, the townships were required to make up the difference. The state requires these contracts to qualify for state aid for the library.

For numerous years, the penal fines were enough to cover the 0.3 of a mill required by the contracts and the townships did not have to pay out of pocket.

In 2000, the state changed the rules with penal fines and began taking some of the money. This resulted in less money going to the city from the township. PA 97 allowed local courts and enforcement to use up to 70 percent of the penal fines for funding and it decreased how much funding went to libraries.

During the 2002-03 fiscal year, a majority of the townships’ penal fines were no longer enough to cover the amount owed to the city.

In that same time period, the city’s penal fines were added toward the library’s overall funding, which offset the differences for each township. The state’s analysis of the library’s funding only looked at the overall total, not the individual contracts. City officials later discovered that each township should have been paying the difference in their respective contracts, but never sent out bills to the townships.

The Big Rapids City Commission chose to forgive any debt accumulated during that time to start on a “clean slate.”