Evanston Library Board President Michael Tannen defended the board’s proposed 11 percent tax hike Monday night, while Alderman Ann Rainey attacked it as unconscionable.

Tannen told aldermen at the City Council meeting that the library has become a one-stop-shop for community education.

He said it provided space for volunteer tax preparers last tax season who prepared returns for 373 Evanston households and just last week hosted a resource night for families with special needs youngsters that drew an audience of 80.

He blamed at least part of the tax increase on President Obama and the new affordable care act, which he said required the library to provide health coverage for more of its part-time workers.

And he claimed that the Evanston library still lags far behind the spending levels of what he described as peer institutions in other suburbs.

Alderman Ann Rainey.

The proposed increase will raise the library tax rate substantially above the mandated level imposed by the state legislature, and Rainey called the increase outrageous.

“For any department that hasn’t had a hurricane or some other catastrophe to ask for 11 percent is irresponsible,” Rainey said, “I don’t care how famous and important and good our library director is.”

Rainey said that when the library board was given control over its own budget “we were told we wouldn’t be seeing big increases.”

A smaller increase, she suggested could be appropriate. “Three percent, maybe even five percent I could stomach, Rainey said, “but you need to go back and fix it.”

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the library tax levy next Monday night.

So far, other than Rainey, only Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, has spoken out in opposition to the library tax hike, while Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who appoints the library board members, has defended it.

In other budget news, aldermen raised no objections Monday to a series of relatively minor adjustments to the proposed city budget developed by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz in response to earlier suggestions from council members. Bobkiewicz said he’d incorporate those changes into the final version of the budget scheduled for adoption next week.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Library Budget

    What ever happened to bake sales and other fundraising campaigns?  Raising taxes cannot always be the first answer.  Ann Rainey and Colleen Burrus are speaking out because they represent areas of town where residents are not as financially sound as other areas of town.  To be clear, property taxes, water and various other fees are being heaped onto residents this year.  Our library should consider the people they serve for ALL of Evanston and not attempt this ridiculous increase.  Sure, it is nice to have books and updated technology, but people are already struggling in some parts of Evanston and I'm sure they would like to get all of the hands out of their wallet.  ALL residents need water and garbage pickup, but in this difficult economic climate, the library should back off a bit.  Fundraising… it works!

    1. The library hired several new

      The library hired several new people last year, including a professional fund raiser. How is that fund raising going? Has it even paid for the position?

      With todays technology, a library should be able to get by with less manpower.

      If you have that many parttime employees that are working over 30 hours a week, maybe you can cut their hours or replace them with fewer fulltime employees to cut your costs.

      It is hard to believe that it is costing the library that much to give free space for groups that are doing somebody else's taxes. If it is, you should be charging the user for whatever the expenses come to.

      You are running a library, not the center of community education. That is not your mission, 


    2. Library Budget

      Shame on Ald. Rainey & Burrus.  The last great public square is under assault.  The 11% increase amounts to approximately $1.25/per household in Evanston.  It doesn't sound as catastrophic when you break down the numbers.  I once read in a book that pre-WWII Germany wasn't too keen on books or libraries, either.  If we don't learn from our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.

      1. Ouch — pre WWII Germany?

        Elected representatives objecting to and asking questions about sizeable increases in library staffing and costs. Seems rather harsh to compare them to Nazis which is what your so-very-thinly-veiled comment meant.  

        I object to these increases and have questions, too.  Does that make me a book-hating Nazi, too?

        I guess if you have no defense of your position, you attack your opponents' morals and virtues, right?  Seems to be your approach. I am so glad that you love books. Try appreciating and respecting people, their arguments and their financial plights as well. 

      2. Write a check


        The Library Board Hired a paid fundraiser. I am quite sure that person would take your check

  2. No money for the library but money for Patios?

    Maybe the alderperson should explain to us, why the city built a patio for a private business?

    We have resources for this type of activity?  – which we should not be doing at all – and she is upset about the library?

    How about the water rates – care to discuss?  Why are both these Alderperson's supporting water rate increases – when the operation is highly questionable?

    1. Library tax

      "Maybe the alderperson should explain to us, why the city built a patio for a private business" I agree! These alder-people who are against the library tax increase should explain why they have favored things like subsidizing private businesses' expenses and additional TIFs that are of questionable value to our community.The library is a public service and a core resource for educating our youth and for keeping some at risk teens out of trouble (consider the teen room, internet availability, free lectures, reduced cost and free DVD rentals etc.). All these library services are much more likely to benefit those in the wards of these two alder-people than subsidizing business construction expenses will do for them. I'd gladly direct all my Evanston taxes to supporting the library and public services and away form supporting still more TIFs (which have been shown by various studies to help businesses far more than neighborhoods).

    2. What is the truth?

      Did, as you say, the taxpayers pay the cost of installing the patio without full payment by the business owner OR did the business owner get invoices for the full cost of labor and materials then pay those invoices?

      What is the truth?  What was spent on the patio and how much did the business owner pay for the labor and materials?  Has that ever been explained in documents from the city?

      It would be nice to know the truth.

      1. We do not know the Truth? ( re: Patio )

        We do not know the truth – the city has not discussed this issue at Council – the council has been very quiet about all this -The only thing mentioned officially is that they have invoiced the business. Wally mentioned this at one meeting – that was about it.

        You can personal file FOI's and see what they tell you.

        1. No facts? Can’t rely on that

          You keep repeating that something improper/illegal/shady/sinister is going on with the patio.

          I suggest that you submit a FOIA request and get actual facts. Since you don't have any facts to support your rants about the patio, why should anyone conclude that your suspicions have any validity?

          And telling someone else to spend time and effort just to prove or disprove your rants — that's pretty nervy.  Plus I assume that you will poo-poo any documents obtained from the City as frauds/fakes/cover ups/conspiracies. 

          I don't have anything to do with the patio's operation and I don't know the owners or anyone who does. I can tell you that I have no reason to defend the deal or defend your posts. So you can just keep posting accusations about the patio without factual support.  But with no factual support, I can decide that your posts on the patio are not useful as they are nothing but unfounded suppositions.

          1. I think Junad’s point is that

            I think Junad's point is that the city manager promised to be transparent and provide all the documents and billing information needed to prove he did not exceed his authority. If you remember, the city council and mayor) was not informed of this deal at first (if you can believe that). After this back door deal was reported by EvanstonNow, the PIG said that they could not find a contractor that would do the job and Wally offer to have the city do it for them. Then the local contractors retorted that they were not contacted by the PIG and some said that they could have done the job but not for what Wally could do it for. There was some complaining that the city was talking business from them.

            Other than a cost of +18k, Wally or the city has not released any detail. The whole thing smells because of the city's lack of transparency

          2. I have quite a few facts

            I was the individual who observe the city doing the work on the Saturday – and notified the press about the Patio.

            I am well aware of what they were doing.  I have quite a few facts and the press produced several stories. The other post under this ( SkipW) explains some of my concerns as well.  There are many people in town who are concerns about how the city is doing business, there have been quite a few posts and articles in all the press about the Patio.

            When the stories came out it was summer and many people were out of town, you may not seen them.

            The City claim is it followed all the correct procedures in authorizing the work, you should read both the editorials in Evanstonnow and the Roundtable on the matter. The press has concerns.

            I also some think I am talking alot about the mess at the water utility – the order of magnitude of that is huge compared to the Patio – The city was suppose to have a study done before they passed the current budget with the capital improvements to the water facility they have not presented to council – I believe they have study and are holding it.  So they will be committing over $2 million they have not even discuss shortly.

            What is going on here is interesting – how they work is they want everyone to forgot about what they have done – so they just do it and move on – they need to be held accountable.


  3. This is what you get from an unelected taxing body

    So the 11 percent proposed library tax hike is Obama's fault., Now that's a beaut.

    Our city Library Board is unelected yet it has the power to levy taxes. Why won't the City Council do something about that?

    Perhaps this will be a campaign issue for those interested in running for a seat on the City Council or the mayor.

  4. Fair comparisons
    When EPL budget is compared [as being low] to other cities like Skokie, they should compare it to places with universities—but public universities.
    NU, Loyola, U.Chicago, Harvard are Government Repositories. Thus they have to let the public have access to government records. BUT unlike NU who lets the public in for a substantial number of hours a week—though most come to play games, listen to Web music, view pornography, and sleep—the other and most private research libraries don’t let the general public in like that. Policy varies but most will require and Info Pass from their public or university library good for a limited number of days that it does not have these materials and specific material, and those sent to a segregated room or library—not freedom to wander the main library or use computers–at least not for materials/purposes other than ‘Government Publications.’
    Evanston residents can view a lot of expensive materials and hence EPL budget does not have to be as high as Skokie.

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