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Library board eyes grab for your wallet

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.

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