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.