Evanston’s Library Board is scheduled to vote this evening on a plan that would allow it to directly tax property owners, rather than living within a budget set by the City Council.

According to a memo from library staff, the new direct tax would cost the owner of a $600,000 home $366 a year to maintain current library services.

But, the memo indicates, under the state statute used to justify the plan, the appointed library board could, at its own discretion, dramatically increase the tax to as much as $658 a year for the same homeowner.

And, another memo from staff proposes a spending increase of roughly 10 percent in 2011 over council-adopted 2010 spending levels — from $3.5 million to $3.8 million for a transitional 10 month fiscal year as the city moves to match its fiscal year to the calendar year.

Under the state statute, it appears taxpayers only recourse against such an increase would be to try to persuade the mayor and City Council to select more fiscally conservative library board members as their staggered three year terms expire in future years, or to persuade the mayor that “the interests of the municipality demand removal” of the board members.

The Library Board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. tonight in the board room at the main library downtown, 1703 Orrington Ave.

Update 11:30 a.m.:

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says, “Personally, I do not think it would be right for a board that is not elected to have the power to levy a tax such as this.”

“The elected City Council worked long and hard to develop a budget that is as fair as possible under the economic circumstances. Intuitively, it does not make sense that an appointed Board could push that budget out of balance or, alternatively, levy a tax that could increase the net tax bill for homeowners by hundreds of dollars,” Wilson added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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29 Comments

  1. Shut it down

    and sell it off- books, art, technology, building and all. Barring that extreme, get rid of the fiscally irresponsible board and replace them. Do they even live in Evanston and look at the tax burden already being sucked out of the homeowners? What about the non-homeowners who do not get a property tax bill? Will they be charged for using the library, and why not? Enough has become way too much. November election is coming soon… time to clean house (and senate and everywhere else) of ALL of them.

  2. Library as a separate taxing body

    Would there be a concommitant reduction of tax going to the City if the library part of the "budget" were removed from the general fund and moved to this separate tax?

    1. It depends

      Any reduction in other city tax levies would depend on what the City Council chose to do.

      Given that the council chose a spending level for the library substantially below what the library board could set, it seems rather unlikely that the aldermen would be willing to cut other city services to make up for a free-spending decision by the library board.

      They might even decide to spend more on other services once the library was off their books — the "no longer our problem" response.

      1. Worthy of debate…

        The question of whether a new taxing body should be created to manage library affairs is certainly worthy of debate. The Evanston City Council would no doubt welcome a chance to unload this political and financial Albatross. But make no mistake; once a taxing body is born, it will tax, and its newly elected board will levy whatever it feels is necessary to do the job. If I were a "friend of the Branch Libraries" I would lobby hard for an independent Library District…. Stuart Opdycke 1327 Hinman

        1. Library district

          Hi Stuart,

          Creating a separate library district with an elected board of trustees is another option. The statute covering that can be found here. But it’s not what the library board is currently proposing.

          — Bill

    2. I can not speak for the

      I can not speak for the entire Council, but if the Board raised the budgeted amount by a million or 2 over what is currently budgeted, it would be a huge problem to try to reduce the general fund budget by the same amount.  It was challenging enough to make the cuts we made last year to avoid tax increases.  To make that kind of room in the budget for the library, do we cut more firefighters or police?  Reduce waste pickups?  We must remain fiscally responsible and, in these challenging times, that means living within our means. 

    3. Council to reduce taxes as offset to library tax ?

      Oakton Mom wrote: "Would there be a concommitant reduction of tax going to the City if the library part of the "budget" were removed from the general fund and moved to this separate tax?"

      When did a government body ever give up taxes.  No they will find another "art work" or something to fund.  If you reduce your budget, you lose an excuse for staff and look "smaller", that is why governments always spend [even if to waste] their budget for the year so they won’t get less next year or look "less important."

      Branch lovers finally got what they want—and the rest of us pay.

  3. Whaddya know – more taxes

    This is an outrage and it would not surprise me if  Mayor Tisdahl and council members knew beforehand that the library Board was going to do this. They probably gave it their blessing.

    I’d love to know what Tisdahl and council members including my rep, Mark Tendam, think about this new form of taxation and what they are going to do about it. The Library Board is going to vote among themselves to allow the body to enact taxes on property owners.

    Remember folks, the Library Board members are appointed not elected to the board so where do you suppose their loyalties lie? Mayor Tisdahl you might recall appointed not long ago the president of the city employee’s union to a budget task force.

    It’s also a slap in the face of all those good people who donated money to the Save Our Branches and Friends of the Public Library one of whom has a member, Jeff Smith, who ran for the Democrat 18th District primary and who told the Council that there should be a library taxing body. (side note – Smith lost to Robyn Gabel who now is our acting and unelected state representative who supports a state income tax increase. Susan Greene, a Gabel campaign supporter successfully kept Libertarian Steve Funk off the ballot to challenge Gabel).

    So in this process, who is representing the interest of those about to receive this new library tax? Who are the library board members? Democrats most likely, every last one of them. Perhaps it’s time for another grass roots movement – Friends of the Taxpayers. Petition anyone?

    Where I smell taxes, I smell a Democrat. Is there anything else in Evanston?

  4. Taxation without Representation?

    Evanston’s Library Board is scheduled to vote this evening on a plan that would allow it to directly tax property owners, rather than living within a budget set by the City Council.

    Did I miss something?  When did the Library Board gain the right to become a taxing authority?  Did the City Council grant this?

    By this rationale I should be able to directly tax all Evanston residents in order to maintain my yard and exterior of my house (after all, you get to drive by and admire how well kept it is) and for use of my driveway apron as a turnaround.

  5. Greed and entitlement

    If this passes I’m not taking my family to the EPL ever again. This is insane. I’ve never seen a town with as many greedy and entitled (to other people’s money) people as Evanston. And I have to agree with Al. I’m voting straight GOP this fall.

    Skokie Library, get ready for an influx of new customers if this happens.

    1. Is it any wonder?
      You are correct, and it is no wonder, this what you get when you (and me) live in the heart of the Liberal Democrat nation.

      Vote GOP.

  6. Evanston Whiners

    Y’all just need to find a way to get more $ out of NU for EPL.  In the meanime, haters need to educate yourselves on the importance of libraries and how little Ev IL spends per capita on them compared to other comparable communities.

  7. “Free Spending”?

    Bill:

    I thought Evanston Now was to report the news.  Always surprised when you mix news with your views, which seems to be getting more frequent.  Maybe you need to change your website to Evanston What I Think.

    1. Word choice

      Hi Jessica,

      My use of the phrase "free-spending" was in a comment below addressing what the City Council might do in response to a hypothetical action by the library board.

      In that context, I don’t think that the use of the term was at all out of place nor did it violate any journalistic concept of objectivity.

      The library staff proposal calls for a 10 percent increase in spending. The state statute would apparently allow the board to increase spending by as much as 80 percent.

      The city council’s approved budget for this year decreased total city spending by 3 percent .

      In a time of severe strain on Evanston’s economy, how big an increase would it take for you characterize it as "free-spending"?

      Someplace in that range of -3 percent to +80 percent is something that fits the description of "free-spending, wouldn’t you agree?

      Beyond that particular word choice, Evanston Now is a forum for both news and opinion with viewpoints from all segments of the community welcome. You are welcome to share your opinions here — and I hope you won’t object when I choose to share mine.

      — Bill

      1. Well put

        Exactly right – here is the new city manager trying to cut down the "bloat" on our city budget, right down to cutting firefighters – and the library board, which is unelected, finds a sneaky way to force the fees for two moribund branch libraries on us. 

        Evanstonians, let’s be as cagey and underhanded as the library board has been with us and find a way to cut them loose.  This arrogance – that we must have their two little musty libraries, no matter what – is reminiscent of Illinois politics of sticking it to you when you’re looking the other way. 

        The libraries were already cut from the budget, given a kind 6 month funding drive, and it looked like there were private wealthy citizens to ante up (a nice tax break too), and then suddenly, the game changes – and we’re ALL on the hook.  

        I live near the south branch library, which I can tell you has less traffic than the ORT, the Junior League, Cross Rhodes, the church soup kitchen, or even the tuxedo store – and that’s out of business now!  People are looking into the libraries on their computers right around the corner in Starbucks.  Or, walk 8 blocks and you’re at our gorgeous downtown library!

        True, there’s something unpleasant about closing a library, but something even more unpleasant about a sneaky tax.  Now, I fervently want those two branches to close – and the board to be deposed in full.  They may be readers, but they sure can’t smell the coffee…..

        1. Deposed in full

           ". Now, I fervently want those two branches to close – and the board to be deposed in full. They may be readers, but they sure can’t smell the coffee….."

          The word ‘depose’ has more than one meaning.

          If you want the board to be ‘deposed in full’, as in ‘removed from power’  – this seems unfair.  After all, two of the board members voted against this measure.  There is no reason to remove them from power.  The others should truly be deposed (removed from power).

          If you want the board to be ‘deposed’ as in ‘subject to a court deposition’ – where they would all have to testify before a People’s Tribunal about the shameful activity that occurred during their last meeting  – then that seems perfectly reasonable to me.

          1. Deposed- Good Idea

            If you want the board to be ‘deposed in full’, as in ‘removed from power’  – this seems unfair.  After all, two of the board members voted against this measure.  There is no reason to remove them from power.  The others should truly be deposed (removed from power).

            If you want the board to be ‘deposed’ as in ‘subject to a court deposition’ – where they would all have to testify before a People’s Tribunal about the shameful activity that occurred during their last meeting  – then that seems perfectly reasonable to me.

            Yes. please. Both. First the latter, then the former. ALL of them, even the two who voted against- they ALL must be questioned and held accountable for the entire board’s greed and avarice. Let them face a People’s Tribunal. Let them answer to the taxpayers and property owners. Then toss the lot of them to the wolves.

            Start over. Close the branches, fire the deadwood from the library staff, sell off unused materials. Make it work within the budget or shutter the whole thing.

  8. Are you kidding!?

    This is an outrage. 

    Since when did the Library Board get the power to legislate taxes to keep their branches open?

    It is questionable if this tax is even legal. 

    The Library Board needs to get serious and grow a spine.  They should consider:

    1)  Charging a yearly membership fee to the branch libraries so only those families and individuals that use the service pay for it.

    2)  Charging a rental fee for each item rented from the library – books, videos, dvds, etc.

    Finally, here is a great idea – the Board needs to think smarlty, and  actually guarantee an operating budget exists in the form of positive cash flow based on the  aforementioned membership / rental fees.

    Bottom line – if you like it, want it and use it, then you pay for it.

    Is this what community organizers do?  Strong arm everyone into paying for something only few use?

  9. Let your voices be heard

    Here is a link to the e-mail addresses of the EPL board members.  I just sent an e-mail to them asking them not to raise my taxes.  If you are upset about this issue, I suggest that you do the same.

  10. Oh, joy

    Who is next in line to tax property owners in Evanston?

    Assuming that is legal, why tax only property owners instead of taxing Evanston residents (the supposed beneficiaries of a public library in Evanston)? Why not tax only those residents that claim the north and south branches are essential (they need to be reminded that Evanston is only 7.8 squared miles… north to south, ~3 miles – walk or ride your bike and you will be healthier and smarter for it)?

    And to the " non-resident observer", squeezing NU? NU has cut the budget for its libraries.

  11. Library funding and increased taxes
    I have lived in communities where the library funding is from a separate taxing body (similar to school districts) and the system works, as long as the taxing body is accountable to the tax payers. Without public election of the individual Library Board members, it is difficult to support a direct tax from that board. That said, libraries have an important role in our society to help keep our population educated and informed and we, the public, should fund them. Of course knowing they are fiscally responsible is important.

    If we move to have a separate taxing body, I would be interested to know how we could consolidate library districts to save costs. Also, if a new taxing body is formed, it is reasonable to think that the city tax assessment would be reduced by the current budget allocated to the Library.

    On a side note, it is completely untrue to say that the non-property owners do not pay for services in their community. Renters/Leasers living in Evanston pay their property tax through the Landlord, as these are pushed down from the landlord in their rental/leasing cost.

    1. Also, if a new taxing body is

      Also, if a new taxing body is formed, it is reasonable to think that the city tax assessment would be reduced by the current budget allocated to the Library.

      Have you ever known a politician to REDUCE taxes? It will just get shuffled into some more crappy artwork, or some STUDY about lakefront opera houses, or some aldercrooks pet project, or a block of bulidings that no one else wants, or, or, or… there’s ALWAYS something.

      ———-

      On a side note, it is completely untrue to say that the non-property owners do not pay for services in their community. Renters/Leasers living in Evanston pay their property tax through the Landlord, as these are pushed down from the landlord in their rental/leasing cost.

      This is true, and renters/leasers should be afforded the same use priveleges as other property owners. The issue comes from those who use the facility and do not pay. Do NU students who live in dorms or other NU-owned properties pay property taxes? Do the transients who congregate there? Do the various religious institutions? Residents at the Y?

      ———-

      Of course knowing they are fiscally responsible is important.

      Based on the last few years of cutting services, branches, and materials does it look even remotely like the library or its board are fiscally responsible?

       

       

  12. Does anyone know if the “new”
    Does anyone know if the “new” library building has been paid off? And, more importantly, how was it financed?

    I believe that many big projects like this are financed through General Obligation bonds, which means that paying off the debt has come from general city tax receipts–not the library’s budget.

    If you look at the current budget, there are several capital improvements that the library is requesting that would be paid through general funds.

    Obviously, if the the library cedes itself from the city, they won’t be able to count on the city general budget for these funds.

    Let’s say the library board goes through with this coup d’ e’tat, would they be liable for the debt that has been paid to finance that building?

  13. Library Board Request

    If the Library Board wants to tax Evanston residents then, all residents should benefit.  Why not a North, South and West Branch since we are all being taxed?   This reflects the elitist attitude of the Board and what they want they should get without regard for others.

    1. No, Sorry, you’re wrong

      We are NOT all being taxed.

      It is NOT a tax on ALL residents, it’s a tax on PROPERTY OWNERS.  Further- It is not an elitist attitude at all, but taking from one group (property owners via a tax) and "spreading the wealth" to everyone.

      There used to be a name for that type of system… didn’t work out well in the end then, and will not now.

      Boycott this tax. Refuse to pay.

  14. Things Change- Wake up or Live in your Cerebral Utopia

    Newspapers have been going out of business slowly and so have many other businesses as technology changes.  Its just a fact that there will be fewer libraries in the future and most of them will be archives and museums as the world gets connected..  I’m tired of walking down central and seeing an empty library.  Let those who want to use it pay for it.

    When is the last time you used the reference section on the library?  Be Honest.   Mine was in the 90s when I got my first AOL account., Once the publishers put their periodicals online and google came around, why would i get in the car, pay $2 to park when  I can log on my pc with coffee in hand at my comfy desk?  Save this save that– let collectors and museums save things and charge a fee to those who want to wallow in the past.

  15. the library is not proposing

    the library is not proposing any new taxes, the illionois state legislature already set the rate at which a municipality with a library can tax.

    they set it at 0.23% the library board appears to be saying that they want the city to collect .128% since that is what is needed to cover their costs.

    ultimatley if you want this tax rate reduced you need to talk to the state legislature, since they set it.

    the libarary board is simply pointing out that our elected official(state representatives) have already said that they can have up to 0.23% and therefore they want more that whatever it is they are currently getting.

     

    note that the .128% collected as a library cost would be offset by whatever the reduction in city  general operating fund budget is so although there would be a $366 charge for the library, in principle this should be offset  by a reduction of around $330 in taxes to the city general operation fund (based on the library estimate that they would require only a 10% increase over the current city allocation)

     

  16. Library board

     "Library Board Eyes Grab for your Wallet" is not what I’d call objective reporting. That’s a very biased headline. 

    I wish you would eliminate your editorializing from what is supposed to be news coverage. You are undermining your own credibility. A lot of Evanston residents don’t appreciate your very biased writing and open opposition to the branch libraries. 

    I read Jeff Smith’s cogent, unemotional explanation of the library board’s vote and found it very informative. It’s good to know the facts.

  17. Did the Library Friends Promise a Perpetual Donation ?

      Did each of the ‘Friends’ pledge an annual donation to the branches, where each year the pledge would amount to the $400,000 budget [2 * the $200,000 needed for the six month extension] ?

      A charity would be foolish to have an all out campaign and then assume each year they will get the same amounts from donors without getting [binding] pledges or promising to keep going back to those supporters each year for an equal [increased really for rent, heat, salary, replacements, etc.] contribution.  

    Did the Friends also pledge to staff the branches [I assume for free given their love of them], purchase books they can donate ?

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