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After being told for the past couple of years that they had no control over the property tax imposed by the Evanston Public Library board, aldermen heard a different story Monday night.

In response to a question by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, City Attorney Grant Farrar said that because the library is proposing to spend more next year than what’s provided for under the state Local Library Act statute, the City Council could reduce the tax levy so it doesn’t exceed the statutory cap.

As a home rule unit of government, Farrar said, the city is also free to spend more on libraries than provided for by the statute, if it chooses.

The library’s levy for this year — at .234 percent of equalized assessed valuation — slightly exceeded the .23 percent statutory cap.

The library is seeking an 11 percent increase for next year after raising the levy 33 percent this year.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said the increase for next year amounts to about $600,000.

Exactly how much the library will be over the statutory cap depends on whether there are further adjustments in the assessed value of property in the city — which Lyons noted has been dropping in recent years.

The aldermen took no action on the library budget issue Monday, but they’re scheduled to give final approval to next year’s city budget by Nov. 24.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. How about triming the city budget by $4 million in slush $

    The city has hiden costs for Robert Crown and the Water Resorvior engineering in the budget which they have not even discussed or voted to approve.  Over $4 million dollars and the council members are talking about the library, Please – its total disgusting. These people want to pretend they represent the public – are we going to pay to move the water Resorvior?  Council members seem willing to commit over $30 million dollars for a unnecessary project, which the Mayor claims is needed – repair the top for $3-4 million.

    Some keep on claiming NU doesn't want the resorvior moved – wasn't an article publish here on Evanstonnow – about the Mayor, NU president and Pat Quin meeting to discuss the state giving them $ for the resorvior?

    The $600,000 for the library is nothing – why haven't they answer any questions on the patio they built with our money for a private business?

    1. It is all imrtant

      All of the things you mentioned are important. The city does not debate issue at the council meetings and almost never gives reasons why they vote the way they do. It gives the impression that they don't want the citizens to know something or that there is coverup. You have repeated your claims but the city government never produces anything to refute. So the negative impression continues.

      The library continues to want more and more money at the same time they expand their mission beyond that of a library.

      Wally never releases the detailed information about the expenses of patiogate that can obsolve him of wrongdoing.

      Are they hoping that by not cooperating with the public and keeping quiet, things will just go away?

      1. Thank you for the input

        I think it is important people understand this council and mayor are not doing their job, they seem to think if they are discussing something maybe its a conflict.  Why would you put a $2 million expediture in the budget for engineering on a resorvior, you have not even approved to replace.  That is unless, you are planning to do it with out any discussion.

        Some are suggesting they will be approving it when they award a contract for the engineering work, I am sorry that is not reviewing the report they have spent $80,000 on. Once at a council meeting a public official stated she did not understand what they did at the water plant, but it is OK.  I have been suggesting now for sometime it is a huge fiscal mess, my review of the numbers points to a major problem, and by the way – now we have two 10% water bill increases with a third to come – and in looking at the numbers – this will still not cover the resorvior.

        You are right about Patiogate – they can understand something that simple – but they don't want to discuss it –

        I am OK if they are spending money on the library – I have not review the expeditures so I can not comment if they are good or bad – but at least – that is not giving money to a private business to build a patio or wine and cheese bar! ( that I can not agree with!)

  2. Minimize the tax increase
    It is good to know that the council can take action on the proposed property tax increase, and I would encourage the council to vote it down or at lease minimize it. Marty Lyons is correct that property values are down, and the property taxes should reflect that fact. I knew it was only a matter of time before library administrators took advantage of their new ability to raise taxes as much as they could and apparently more than they should have. I see no urgent matter within the library system to necessitate a property tax increase.

  3. Library levy
    I don’t think that is commonly known how woefully underfunded our Library is compared to comparable towns. Our annual tax spending per resident is just $56, in contrast to Skokie, where they spent $173, Oak Park, $183 and Northbrook, $191 per resident per year.

    The Library does a wonderful job with that paltry sum. We had over 1 million visits last year and circulate more than 1.1 million books.

    Evanstonians value their library. We should willing to help it achieve a bit more parity.

    1. Why?

      The library has expanded services beyond functions of a library. This means they are spending money that could be used to make library improvements. 

      The money that they are spending on the unneeded banch libraries could be used on improving a good central library. Evanston does not have a large physical size, like Chicago.

      The library has added a lot of staff including a fund raiser. How is that going? How much extra has been raised? Is it enouh to pay for a fund raiser.

      Last year's 40 percent tax increase was supposed tax increase was a one time thing.

  4. In the past, when library

    In the past, when library taxes were hidden in a broader category, didn't the city manager skim whatever he wanted from that amount for his purposes and pass onto the library whatever was left over?

    1. “Skim?” Not so

      Hi,

      The claim that the city manager could "skim whatever he wanted" is false.

      The library as a city department always had a specified budget.

      You could look up the budgets on the city website.

      The city manager did recommend and the City Council did approve funding reductions for the library — as well as other departments — as the city responded to the budget crisis caused by the collapse of the real estate market last decade.

      It is true that the library was among the departments hit hardest by those budget cuts.

      — Bill

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