Evanston aldermen postponed a vote on the library’s proposed 11 percent tax levy increase Monday night, but it did not appear that opponents had enough votes to ultimately reject the measure.

Aldermen Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, requested the delay.

They were joined by Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, in defeating a motion to reject the hold, which would have required a two-thirds vote for approval.

But five aldermen voted in favor of an immediate decision — which would be enough votes to ultimately approve the tax levy at a special City Council meeting now scheduled for 6:30 p.m. next Monday.

“Nobody’s disputing that the library does good work in the community,” Burrus said, but the vote “isn’t about doing good work — it’s about financial responsibility. And an 11 percent tax increase is not financially responsible.”

Rainey said most other city departments were required to trim their spending by 3 percent for next year.

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the idea that the library is “not being responsible isn’t really fair.”

Alderman Don Wilson.

Wilson said the library’s 20-year-old building hasn’t been adequately maintained and the library is moving responsibly to a pay-as-you-go model for maintenance costs “which is going to cost more.”

“Other libraries often offer much greater services than Evanston’s,” Wilson added, “but the Evanston library is doing as well as can be expected given the resources they have.”

The aldermen seeking the delay voiced hopes that by next Monday the library board would have come up with a modified budget that would require less of a tax increase to fund.

It was unclear whether the board is inclined to make any changes to its budget.

During public comment earlier in the meeting, the library board’s president, Michael Tannen, attacked aldermen who had criticized the board as unrepresentative of the hard-pressed taxpayers of the community, saying the nine board members have lived a combined total of more than 200 years in Evanston.

He also argued that the library has been underfunded for years.

Under state law, the appointed library board gets to set the library’s budget — but the City Council can reject any tax levy to fund it that exceeds a state-imposed ceiling of .23 percent of the equalized assessed value of property in the community.

The current library levy, at .234 percent, slightly exceeds that cap; and the levy to fund the proposed 2015 library budget is expected to be substantially over the ceiling.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. future tax increases?

    All one hears from the library board is how "undernourished" they have been, no other metrics seem to get presented.  On a per user served basis, their cost/spend per user seems comparable to our neighbor libraries, so this statement of undernourished may be too simplistic. 

    Big question that I have not heard explained by the library board is what their 10 year business plan looks like. Have they shown that this tax increase is a one time ask, bringing them to parity and enabling them to fulfill their vision? Or do they feel justified to keep coming back asking for large increases every year?


  2. Free parking

    With this property tax increase for the Evanston Library will the residents of Evanston be getting free parking? A number of the suburbs mentioned in some previous articles i've read have free parking for the users of the library.  In Evanston this can mean an additioal several hundred dollars a year to go to the library for frequent visitors. Parking free adds to cost of running a business and in this case a library.

    1. Free parking near library

      There is already free parking for an hour at the Church Street garage, which is about 400 feet from the library.


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