Evanston Library Board members Wednesday night were told that to maintain existing services under the independent funding model they’ve sought will require a nearly 11 percent boost in property tax revenue next year.
Board members stressed that they’ve made no decision yet about what level of spending they’ll approve.
The budget estimate, prepared by board members Diane Allen and Susan Newman and library administrators Lesley Williams and Paul Gottschalk, assumes a four percent increase in all existing expense lines and starts to build up operating reserve and capital reserve funds that the library will need to be able to handle budget emergencies on its own.
In planning for next year’s budget, Gottschalk said, city departments have been told to assume that costs will rise four percent, but that the departments will have to cut spending enough to fully absorb those increased costs.
The reserve funds proposed are extremely modest by most municipal government standards.
The operating reserve — which would have to be drawn on if tax revenue or other funding sources failed to live up to projections — is set at $100,000 — or less than two percent of the $5.01 million budget.
“That would keep the doors open for about a week,” Gottschalk said.
The City of Evanston by policy maintains a reserve of at least one month of general fund revenue and in practice has maintained reserves equal to about two months worth of spending.
And the city, with many different revenue streams, has much more flexibility in dealing with a budget shortfall than the library will as a separate entity dependent on the property tax for nearly 90 percent of its revenue.
Top: Board member Diane Allen discusses the budget planning document. Above: Newly appointed board member Ben Schapiro was sworn in just in time for the budget debate.
The capital reserve — also pegged at $100,000 — falls far short of what will be needed to cover a projected $1.5 million in library capital needs over the next five years.
Board members — clearly feeling squeezed between EPL Friends members demanding increased spending on branch libraries and a sense that many taxpayers will demand that they show at least as much budgetary restraint as the City Council — scheduled two special meetings for next month to work on the budget.
Those meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays Aug. 17 and 31.
The board faces a September deadline for adopting its first tax levy under the library fund model.