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Library Board gets advice on going it alone

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. 

keywords » Evanston budget , Library

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 stations and business-oriented magazines.

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