Now that the Evanston Library Board has decided to become a separate taxing body in 2012, board members Saturday started to learn how to do it.

Now that the Evanston Library Board has decided to become a separate taxing body in 2012, board members Saturday started to learn how to do it.

In a three-hour seminar at the library’s community meeting room, the board, along with a handful of Friends of the Library and a couple of aldermen, heard from a lawyer who specializes in local government issues in Illinois and a former director of the Des Plaines Library, which operates under a similar arrangement.

Billed as a “Seminar on Illinois Local Library Act and Library Fund,” the informal session involved presentations from the visiting experts, supplemented by question-and-answer sessions with both the Board members and the public, which included Sixth Ward Ald. Mark Tendam and Seventh Ward Ald. Jane Grover.

The guest speakers were Robert K. Bush of Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Krafthefer, and Sandra Norlind, who retired recently after serving for 16 years as director of the Des Plaines Library.

Bush, who is the husband of Library Trustee Dr. Gail Bush, compared the Board-city relationship to that of a young adult who moves out of her parents’ home to become financially independent. They will still be intricately linked, as Board members will continue to be appointed by the mayor, subject to the advice and consent of the City Council. Financially, however, the Library Board will develop its own budget and advise the city how much money it needs to operate.

The city, without passing judgment, then forwards that information to the Cook County Tax Collector who will add it to the tax bill that all property owners receive. As the tax money comes into the city, the portion requested by the library will be deposited into the Library Fund and will be dispensed for operations and capital purposes by the Board.

In effect, the new arrangement will take some budgetary pressure off the city, which no longer would need to fund the libraries. At the same time, it would enable the Library Board to continue to fund branches, so long as it did not exceed tax limits imposed by the state. The only “losers” would be the property owners who would likely pay higher taxes and possibly some library employees who might lose their union protection after their current contract expires in 2011, according to the speakers.

Employees of the Des Plaines Library, said Norlind, are not represented by a union, as Evanston city employees, including some library workers, are.

Both Bush and Norlind emphasized that the operation is most beneficial to the city and the library when the two entities cooperate. While there would be no obligation on the part of the city to provide funding for the libraries, said Bush, it would not be unusual for the city to continue to provide some ancillary services, which should be worked out in meetings with city officials before the middle of next year.

Norlind added that the City of Des Plaines for many years provided administrative services, such as accounting, payroll, and legal work, at no cost to the library. The city owns the library building and rents it to the library for a dollar a year, she said. Bush added that the two public bodies should include debt service on the present library facility as part of their negotiations. 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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10 Comments

  1. losers

    "The only “losers” would be the property owners who would likely pay higher taxes and possibly some library employees who might lose their union protection after their current contract expires in 2011, according to the speakers."

    The ONLY losers? I don’t see too many people left. Renters?

    1. Sorry to let you know

      Diane sorry to let you know the renters are potential losers too.  If landlords have to pay higher taxes they will try and pass that increase on to renters. 

    2. Taxpayers may not be net losers.

      Diane, I did not mean to imply that taxpayers would be net losers, as there is an offsetting benefit in that they would live in a community with arguably a better library system with the additional funds at the library’s disposal, including the continued existence of the two branches, which many community members feel very passionate about. I think the branch supporters realize there is no such thing as a free lunch and that if they want the branches to remain, then they (and the rest of the community) will have to pay for them with higher taxes. 

  2. Anyone find it funny that

    Anyone find it funny that the library board is getting advice from Des Plaines?   The library there needs a $600,000 loan to stay open in December.  It sounds like it is not all the library’s fault, but I still find it funny.   Take a read of this article from the Chicago Sun-Times.   

  3. Who hired library’s law firm?

    The guest speakers were Robert K. Bush of Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Krafthefer, and Sandra Norlind, who retired recently after serving for 16 years as director of the Des Plaines Library.

    Bush, who is the husband of Library Trustee Dr. Gail Bush,

     

    Bill…did you ever get a response on your FOIA request for information on how Ancel, Glink was hired by the library board?  

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    1. Library law firm

      Yes … the response was that so far Ancel, Glink’s services have been provided pro bono — at no charge to the library board.

      — Bill

  4. “Friends of Common Sense”?

    While the libraries are a very small issue in the grand scheme of things regarding this city, I wish that the “friends” had some big picture thinking. They really could care less about any other issue this city faces. They have taken it upon themselves to be a very loud and contentious voice for one pet cause. Remember that poll that was conducted a couple months back when they put the branches ahead of the elderly, police/fire, and even economic development??!!! If they had big picture thinking and stopped being so consumed with the library they might have realized that if we had economics to actually develop they might get to keep their branches open. 
     
    They can hire lawyers (so nice of them to work for free!), and can have them as “friends” that sit and scowl in the front row of meetings and take copious notes in the hopes finding some hidden loophole, or wording to capitalize on, but the bottom line is this: if they decide to go it alone, they shouldn’t get any help from the city. No free payroll, no legal help, nothing. Then let them raise our taxes and then see how that works out for them. Everyone on this site complains about property taxes and how high they are, do we really want these people deciding whether or not our taxes get raised? 
     
    I propose that the aldermen, who were elected to make decisions, make them. They said they were against a vote because they were elected to make decisions, well I haven’t seen any made. They keep getting trampled by these people.
     
    Like I said, this is a very small issue in the grand scheme of things, and the aldermen and Mayor know this. This is most likely the reason they haven’t battled this out with them, but when you talk of some independent group of people who were NOT elected to office raising our taxes to keep a pet project open you have to know that will create some issues.
     
    Let’s start a “friends of” group for common sense and practicality that will affect people in a positive way. Or we could just keep writing things on these message boards, whichever. 
    1. City Council is no Friend of the Taxpayers

      Ryan,

      What about starting a group – Friends of the Taxpayers? Because that’s what this is all about.

      Our elected leaders can not make big cuts in the budget and continue to capitulate to the government unions who have donated to their campaigns. Not one Evanston firefighter has been laid off,  and the fire union just won a deal with the city that a third party arbitrator can decide whether the city can layoff firefighters in the future after the fire union filed a lawsuit against Evanston for trying to layoff three firefighters.

      Evanston firefighters did not give up overtime pay or annual merit pay increases – all this in the fourth year of a severe and ongoing recession with a state unemployment rate near 10 percent and holding..

      Yes, 42 employees were laid off but the city this year decides to spend $1 million and hire 20 employees for a new 311 Call Center. And, this year the Council increased the budget by 80 percent for the Evanston Township Assessor’s Office – a duplicative and unecessary service.

      And the Council and mayor allow an unelected Library Board to vote itself a taxing body without ever holding a public hearing.

      Instead, the City Council increased the city tax, gas tax and water and electric rates.

      The grassroots effort to keep the branch libraries open is commendable but the leadership showed poor judgement in supporting the Library Board and rallying with a minority group on an unrelated issue.

      Alderman Mark Tendam of the Sixth Ward should have been more outspoken of cutting big ticket items in the city budget in order to fight for the branch libraries. One item I’ve been mentioning is closing down one of the two Central Street fire stations. The cost of the branch libraries are a drop in the bucket, compared to the budget as a whole.

      Instead, Tendam and other council members seem to be OK with more spending and raising our water and electric rates and taxes while keeping the status quo with the government unions. Meanwhile, other cities are cutting back in their fire, police and city services – the Naperville Fire Union VOLUNTEERED a freeze in merit and overtime in 2009 while some of their brethren lost their jobs.

      The bottom line is the government unions, most of whom live outside of Evanston, have not taken their share of cuts at the expense of the taxpayers. And their pensions are eating our budget alive. 

      And the City Council, who gave themselves a 20 percent pay raise in 2008, sit idly by as Evanston sinks deeper in debt.

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