Evanston aldermen, at a special meeting tonight, are scheduled to vote on a 15.5 percent increase in the property tax levy for the public library.

The library levy vote was delayed at last Monday’s regular City Council meeting, at which the aldermen approved the rest of the city’s tax levies for next year.

The libary, which represents about 3 percent of total city spending, has been boosting its spending at a rapid clip since budgetary control was turned over to a mayorally-appointed nine-member library board two years ago.

Meanwhile total city spending has increased much more slowly — with total city property tax levies scheduled to rise just 1.2 percent next year, even with the library increase included.

Aldermen learned only last month that, despite not being able to determine the library’s budget, they do have the power to limit the taxes it collects — if the proposed tax rate exceeds a state-mandated .23 percent of equalized assessed valuation.

The library topped that cap — at .234 percent — last year and the new proposed library levy is expected to exceed the cap by a substantially larger margin.

With little in the way of other revenue sources other than an endowment fund, trimming the tax levy would effectively force the library board to trim spending.

While some aldermen have attacked the proposed tax increase as unconscionable, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and some other aldermen have defended it.

Most previous discussions of the library tax hike for next year have described it as an 11 percent increase — combining a library debt service levy which is folded into the city’s overall debt service fund and is scheduled to decline next year with the main library fund levy, which is scheduled to increase by 15.5 percent.

But the 15.5 percent levy increase is what aldermen will be voting on tonight.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Close the branches; problem solved

    Close the branches and there should be plenty of money.
    They are only used by people unwilling to walk/bus to Main library.
    With their hours [one evening hour] and book collections they certainly are not meant for students or any kind of serious reading.

  2. What about the Endowment?

    The Library Endowment has assets of $millions and is to be used for the following: "The Endowment Fund was established in 1907 to acquire and invest contributions that provide, in perpetuity, income to be used to support special projects and the acquisition of Library materials, equipment and capital improvements for which the Board of Trustees has determined a need, which projects and acquisitions could not be undertaken within the regular operating and capital budgets of the Library."

    I would like to see an accounting for the Endowment. How much was earned for the year, how much spent on what? Perhaps this is a source of revenue that can be used.

    Why not use these funds? What specifically is the need for new taxes for the Library?

    Here is the website for more information: http://www.epl.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2418:special-funds&catid=152:library-policies&Itemid=501

    1. Library endowment

      The library has budgeted spending $171K from its endowment next year. That's about 2.6 percent of its total planned spending for the year.

      I was unable to find a figure for the current library endowment balance in a quick search of the library and city websites and have emailed the library director seeking that information. The minutes of a City Council meeting from 2010 contain a reference to the endowment having a balance then of about $2.6 million.

      Typically organizations try to spend no more than 5 percent of their endowments annually, so that the endowment will be available to generate future earnings in perpetuity. Five percent of $2.6 million is $130,000.

      Therefore it appears unlikely that the library could responsibly generate a whole lot more of its operating budget from endowment earnings than it does now.

      — Bill

      Update 1:44 p.m.: Library Director Karen Danzcak Lyons says that as of Oct. 31 the endowment value was  $3,885,320.97.

  3. Fees not tax
    Why not have users pay instead of taxes ? This would make the expense/revenue clearer.
    Maybe 25 or 50 cents per book/DVD—other than for children under 12. If a required fee is too much to ask, maybe make it a suggest donation ?
    As it is we are ‘told’ they need more funds and so we will just impose a tax. Also perhaps if there is a small fee people won’t just take out loads of books/DVDs they have no or little intention of reading/viewing and just renew if they don’t get to them.

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