While all other city departments are being told to cut their budgets 5 percent, Evanston’s Library Board Monday night demanded a 11 percent spending increase.
The board voted to restore service at the north and south branch libraries from four days a week to five and made no cuts in staffing, except to convert a full-time job that’s been vacant for two years to a part-time position.
During the board’s public comment period, Kingsley School first grader Leila Cornyn said she enjoys going to the north branch library.
The vote on adding hours at the existing branches split along racial lines, after it became clear that the budget included no added money to provide branch library services in neighborhoods with large minority populations. Members Sharon Arceneaux, Mildred Harris and Lynette Murphy voting against the added hours.
The board also rejected a suggestion from the library staff to trim hours at the main library in an effort to reduce costs.
"We’re being fiscally responsible, we’re not going hog wild," board member Gail Bush said.
Several board members indicated they have plans for further spending hikes in 2012, when they hope to dramatically increase spending on new books for the library’s collection and impose their own tax levy outside the control of the City Council.
Board member Diane Allen-Jacobi tried to shift responsibility for most of the increase onto aldermen who approved new union contracts with city workers.
"You’ve negotated the contracts and given us pension costs we didn’t have before. We don’t control that, unless we start laying off people like mad, which we’re not going to do," she said.
The budget the Library Board approved for the 10-month period from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, totals $3,904,071.
It was not immediately clear how the aldermen may respond to the library board vote — which came in the form of a resolution rather than the formal adoption of a tax levy — or whether aldermen believe they still have the legal authority to control the library’s budget.