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Evanston’s appointed library board plans to hit residents with a 38.75 percent increase in its property tax levy next year.

Proposed city budget documents released over the weekend call for an increase in all other city property tax rates of just 1.66 percent.

But with the big increase in the library tax, the total city property tax bill would rise 5.37 percent next year.

The library board budget includes three tax levies. The main library fund levy will rise from $4.3 million to $5.1 million. In addition there will be new levies of $153,061 for capital improvements and $763,447 for debt service.

The library plans to increase its staffing from 56 full-time equivalent positions this year to 63 next year.

The new positions include a full time development manager or fund raiser, and several new maintenance and branch library workers.

The library board, composed of members appointed to staggered three-year terms by the mayor, gained independence from City Council financial oversight during a years-long battle over plans to close branch libraries as the city struggled through a budget crisis.

Despite the big spending increase, library officials are projecting only modest increases — averaging less than 2 percent — for next year in various performance metrics ranging from the number of items checked out and people participating in library programs to the number of reference questions answered.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, in a news release, said that while the national economy continues to slowly improve, city officials are cautious about the future because of the state’s financial picture and the current federal government shutdown.

The city new budget also includes slight increases in staffing in the city’s police and health departments. For the first time in several years It does not call for any layoffs.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a budget discussion at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21. The next library board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Related documents

Proposed 2014 Evanston City Budget

Adopted 2013 Evanston City Budget

Library board 9/18/13 meeting packet (budget is Agenda item 8)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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27 Comments

  1. Tax question

    So, can you give an example — like, for a $250,000 property what would I have paid in library tax this year versus next?  

    I know you have kindly explained before how this came to be, but remind me.  The Library Board are appointed by the mayor and the voting public has no control other than to get a new mayor?  Can she fire them (or, how long are their appointments for?). 

    The problem here is that this is being decided by a group of people not ialso participating in the general conversations about ALL city necessities.  Increasing library staff (or anythign else) really should be considered during a conversation about all of the city's needs.

    1. Tax estimate

      Look at the final tax bill you paid this year. Take the line item for the Library and divide it in half. Add that to this year's bill and you will have an estimate of the new library tax amount ( this is only an estimate)

  2. Voters are to blame

    This is what happens when you have an unelected governing body that can levy taxes. They are accountable to no one.

    The only remedy is to vote out the mayor and get someone who will appoint fiscally responsible people on the library board. Or Evanstonians can vote in aldermen willing to challenge the Library Board and force them to become elected officials.

    The comingling of the government elite (Democrats) that has no political competition and the non-profit community and government unions produced this sham. The Library Board is now a patronage position for the Democratic party.

  3. We knew it would come but the city denied it

    The library wants to raise taxes even as they have kept/added branches and cut periodicals and reference books.  Instead of cutting the romance and cheap science fiction, novels and all the ethnic/beauty magazines, they cut the 'muscle' of what the library is suppose to be there for.  

    Need to raise taxes educational/research purposes—fine.  But giving in to all the special interest groups and then asking taxpayers to foot the bill is just wrong.

    We are not a rural area.  We have plenty of public transportation.  We don't need the branches !.

  4. Seven new employees?

    Why are they adding seven new employees?  The main library building is starting to fall apart on the exterior go around the building, just like the city they are not spending on capital and over spending on staff, hoping to  come back to us for even more money. 

    Looks like over $500,000 in new positions? Why are they justified?

    1. Where the libraries are adequately funded

      Speaking only for myself, I go to Skokie and Wilmette routinely.  Collections are better and staff is more available.  

      I would prefer that the EPL could meet my needs and those of other residents.  I am willing to pay for it.  On my tax bill a 39% increase is $119.

      Libraries matter.

  5. Wake up and smell the technology!

    All three of my children were frequent visitors to the Main library…until junior high school. From then on, the vast majority of their information and pleasure reading came from a little thing called the internet. (all three graduated from ETHS as honor students with 30+ on their ACTs and all were offered substantial academic scholoarships! Its 2013 people. Wake up and smell the technology! 50-60 employees is absolutely criminal!

    1. Benefits from library resources

      Your ignorance is staggering. In a community as diverse as Evanston, has it not occurred to you that there are many people who benefit from the free resources offered at the library? The computers and Internet access that your children enjoy at home are not found in every home.

      Also, there are many of us in the community that read these paper things called books. And (shocking, I know) enjoy them. Your children would have been better served had you introduced them to the wonders that a library holds, from amazing reference sources that are not online, to learning how to do research from professional reference librarians.

      1. Libraries are changing

        "…there are many people who benefit from the free resources offered at the library? The computers and Internet access that your children enjoy at home are not found in every home.

        Also, there are many of us in the community that read these paper things called books. And (shocking, I know) enjoy them. Your children would have been better served had you introduced them to the wonders that a library holds, from amazing reference sources that are not online, to learning how to do research from professional reference librarians."

        ===================

        The "refernce" material you refer to.  Have you seen how much of it the library has been cutting—even materials any knowledgeable person in a given field would say were necessary.  NU this Summer cut probably 2/3 of its referencce material—though some of it is now [offsite] in Waukegan.

        I rarely see anyone looking in the reference materals and whlie the book collection is good, I don't see many using it as reference—they take it home to read.

        As for computers, except for the Loft which I suspect is mostly used for games, have you seen many under 18 using the computers ?  Even the teens that do are almost always playing games. 

        Most of the people using the computers are listening to music, watching TV/movies, online poker, Angry Birds, porn,   etc.  Any they look like they are homeless or near homeless.  Many of the 'adults' and spend all their  library time at the computers—some must pass around their IDs since they are on 4+ hours a day—and apparently the staff has no method or authority to restrict them. 

        Also you see one after another Chicago residents wanting to use the computers–many with no ID at all. Most of these are under 60 and you would 1. expect to be looking for jobs, 2. doing job applicatiions, 3. if those fail on the computers or reading books to improve skills so they can get jobs. 

        Maybe the Loft provides real education, but most of the student computer work I see are teens and up on their laptops. WiFi yes, desk top computers, no.  Note due to abuse the library went from computer first come first serve, to a time limit–this was necessary.  However people who really are there for research/learning, will be doing their work, find something in the book they don't understand or need to research more and need a computer for 5-10 minutes—maybe several times a day—the system was not set-up for that.

        An altered version of Steven Colbert's NU graduation speech might be "EPL is a beautifuly library that can hold 50,000  books but no one goes there for books [they use e-readers] and in 10 years EPL will be converted to a Quiznos.

         

  6. Library has been chronically underfunded

    Our library has been chronically grossly underfunded compared to our neighborhing communities.  Skokie's library gets something like $150 per capita while Evanston has under $75 per capita.  This is exactly why it is important to separate the library from the city's total budget.

    What does this 39% increase actually mean to someone with a current $5,000 tax bill? $10,000 tax bill? $15,000 tax bill?  That would be useful information so we can evaluate if we are being "slammed" or simply asked for a modest increase to fund something the community says it loves but has been starving for many, many years.

    1. Chronically underfunded

      Oh my, here it comes again, the old rationalization for ever higher taxes by the old it's less than buying a couple cups of starbucks type of justification for picking our pockets once again.

      Silly rabbits, everything is fine, your not being "slammed" by a "modest" 39% tax increase. 

      But we are being nickled and dimed ad nauseam.  

  7. It was only a matter of time…

    …an unelected board, no accountability, expensive branches, and no incentives to be fiscally responsible.  Surprised it didn't happen in their first year of "independence."  And if they are hiring a fundraiser, then why the need to raise tax income?  Won't everyone who suported this idea for a non-accountable library board step up and fund the higher budget level?

  8. Those that still use a library should pay for it!

    Talk about an outdated mode of communication! For such an 'educated' city, you would think we have never heard of the INTERNET. Those that don't own a computer, or just like living in the dark ages, should pay for the use of the library. Or, raise taxes higher and provide free interent to those of us that don't use it!

    1. Benefits far outpace the cost

      Yeah, you know, you can totally find everything that a library has on the internet these days! Like EPL's author events, discussion groups, grant application resources, computer skills classes, candidate forums, employment resources, access to a world of literature that would cost a lot more than your property taxes if you bought it all on Amazon, and– oh yeah– highly-skilled librarians who are trained to help you find and make sense of the information you've found on the internet but are not at all qualified to understand. Nevermind the people who essentially use the library as babysitters for their kids.

      I bet Wikipedia can basically cover all of that.

      I have no strong position whether or not the tax increase is fair or justified, although I'm not a fan of the not-elected part. But anyone who thinks libraries aren't an essential part of a community– especially in a time when access to technology is so important and when making sense of the multitudes of information available to us can be so difficult– is seriously not paying attention. The benefits to the community far outpace the cost of running a decent library.

      But no, go ahead and belittle it. Having once lived in a city that eliminated its library due to budget cuts, it's something that has a wider and deeper impact on a community than you would expect.

    2. People who can’t afford should pay more?

      People who can't afford a computer or an internet connection at home (or both) should be the ones paying more? That's some very progressive logic.

      1. Stop the progressive nonsense

        Did you know that Comcast offers low-cost Internet service, affordable computers and digital literacy training for low income families.

        Internet service is $9.95 per month with no price increase or activation and rental fees. A voucher to buy a new computer for $149. Comcast users and the government subsiidize this with cost increases, user fees etc. 

        Kind of like the free Obamaphones. 

  9. Reasons behind the increase are absurd

    The reasons behind the increase are absurd, metrics NOT improving only staff and costs; fundraiser not raising funds, branches being expanded to serve fewer people, fighting the ubiquitous trend of online information and research exploding in usage.

    Don't expand nor reopen the branches. Lease half the first floor of the library to Starbucks to offset maintainance costs. If Skokie has a better system, go live there.

  10. Let’s look at the numbers

    Evanston Public Library Proposed 2014 Budget
    Costs which represent the City’s support of our personnel, payroll, purchasing and financial systems as well as insurance and debt costs are being transferred to more fully reflect the cost of library services in the Library’s budget. Both the associated costs and tax revenues are being transferred from the City’s operating budget and insurance and debt service funds to the Library. There will be no net tax increase due to these transfers.

    The Library has reviewed our fines and fee structure and sought grant and non-property tax revenue sources. The one new full time position proposed is for a Development Director who will seek additional grants, develop a planned giving campaign and build upon the successful annual Fund for Excellence campaign.

    Property taxes have always been the primary source of library funding. Before being separated, the Library’s portion of the property tax was combined with the City of Evanston’s tax levy.

    The owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay an additional $21.88 if the budget is adopted as proposed – the equivalent of the purchase price for two hardcover books.

    A capital budget reflects the expenses associated with maintaining and improving the Library facilities. The taxpayers have already invested in the construction of our libraries; we wish to maintain these investments in proper working order. By setting up a capital budget, the Library hopes to limit the issuance of bonds to finance future capital needs.

    The proposed budget standardizes hours to the same schedule at both the Chicago Avenue Main Street (CAMS) and North branches:  Monday 10:00 am – 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and closed Sunday and Thursday.

    The annual cost of keeping both branches open two hours per week is $13,300.

    In addition to the extensive community outreach programs currently provided by staff, Library programs that serve residents on the west side (potentially at park facilities) and at the Ridgeville Park District are included in the proposed budget. Expansion of services to immigrant and Latino population are also included through the addition of hours for part-time library staff.

    The 2014 budget includes a 5% increase in expenditures for books, e-books, movies and audio-books. The continuation of popular and successful programs and services and the addition of new ones will occur under the proposed budget.

    The proposed budget will help achieve the Library’s strategic plan goals of equal access throughout the entire community, enhancing opportunities for children to succeed in learning, and improved access to information and services.

    Providing services to young adults and Latinos will continue to improve with the addition of part-time Library Assistants. The safety and comfort of our patrons and staff is a high priority and will be improved with additional part-time Security and Maintenance staff.

    Per person, the Library’s adopted expenditures would be 55% below the average of our peer libraries.

    Public Library        Expenditure   Expenditure per person
    Skokie                   $13,390,291   $205.80
    Arlington Heights  $12,991,848   $172.24
    Oak Park              $7,944,750     $152.48
    Evanston              $5,866,339     $79.02

    NOTE:  This expenditure does not reflect the transfer of $748,178 from the City of Evanston’s budget to the Library. As both the expenditure and revenue to support the debt service is being transferred, there is NO impact upon the property tax bill.

    Per person, the Library’s approved tax levy would be 40% of the average of our peer libraries.

    Public Library        Tax Levy per person
    Skokie                   $195.11
    Arlington Heights  $176.20
    Oak Park               $129.23
    Evanston               $67.40

    The City of Evanston will continue to levy the property tax on behalf of the Library. By displaying the funding for the Library separately, we have increased the transparency of the level of support for the Library and the citizens of Evanston can assess their support in relation to that of other City services. Both the level of revenues and expenditures allocated to meet the information, literacy and programming needs of our community are now captured separately.

    1. How are these communities different?

      Unlike the Council and other divisions of government feel, the residents are not made of money.  If you increase taxes in one area, either the government has to find cuts elsewhere or residents have to reduce their expenses somewhere—rent they can afford [owners will adjust the rents upward], food, medical, entertainment, vacations, travel, etc..

      Of course the cry will be "its only a few dollars" but as Everett Dirksen said "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

      The government is always adding programs, funding their "winners", giving special deals, chasing business [manufacturing and service], coming up with hairbrain ideas that take up residents time and wonder if they have any sanity left [oops, I forgot that was settled long ago].

      As far as I know Oak Park is similar to Evanston economically.  The others refered to are not as far as I know. Maybe they all have governments that face budgets—taxes and expenditures more reasonably, don't fall for every request for a handout—or make them even when not asked—and for evey idea their voter block wants and leave more money for their libraries.  Of course none of those have a university to supplement the public library and maybe they make a better choice of books/journals that the residents are happy with.

      I'd like to see our LIBRARY improve but select groups want branches they can walk to [though I suspect they drive], the latest pot-boilers, every romance novel, loads of gender/race magazines, etc.—but pretty soon you spread yourself so thin you "have to raise taxes"—QED.

       

    2. Budget sleight of hand is what bothers me

      I see the value in the library, and I'm sure we get a good deal compared to other communities. The internet will never replace a physical library, and who is anybody to judge the specific content our neighbors want to consume. 

      What bothers me is that the city is offloading all of the library-related costs into their own funds, but then keeping total GF expenditures unchanged and then acting like they're holding the line on the budget.

      Two new funds have been created, the Library Capital Projects Fund ($150K) and the Library Debt Service Fund (~$750K). The capital fund is new, but the debt service has always been a part of the city's budget. This is in addition to the library operating fund increase of about $750K. Total new spending is about $900K. The $750K debt service is a wash, we can just see it broken out more.

      But the city general is staying flat, not decreasing by $750K due to the debt service being broken out. The city is essentially sneaking a $750K increase in the general fund while claiming to have held the line on the budget. They just did it in such a way that the unelected library board takes the heat. Totally disingenous, and not the library's fault. It's pure misdirection to act like the library is the primary reason for the levy increase this year and I'm surprised the author bought it. 

  11. I use the library…

    So, at the risk of being considered "outdated", "poor", or worse – may I just say that we visit the main library weekly. I read, on average, 4-6 books a week and there's no way I could possible even begin to afford the expense of buying those same books nor can I afford to invest in an e-reader (sacrilegious ;~}).

    I also enjoy taking my child to the library. She explores her portion of the library while I browse my portion. That lovely child is a quick study; she's learning to navigate the Dewey Decimal System, and is getting more comfortable asking the magnificent librarians for assistance when she cannot find a book. Just this last visit, she figured out on which shelf she should be able to find her book and when it wasn't there she asked for assistance. The librarian also confirmed it wasn't there and then, within minutes, found the book elsewhere in the library! My daughter couldn't have been more in awe of the magical powers of this librarian.

    Yeah, it's all gushy mushy stuff that I'm sharing but in fact, my child is expected to research through books and not the internet; she's learning valuable lessons about that and how to ask for help; she's learning to use a tool (DDS) that may well disappear if we discard our library; and – the most important thing – she's having fun.

     

    1. question then

      I don't think this is mushy gusy.  This is exactly the kind of person I am delighted uses the library.  When my kids were little we used it a lot too and it is very valuable.  We still use it on occassion and love it when we go there.

      So here is the question — what have you gone there looking for that you were unable to get.  Not necesarily a particular book,  (though collection is an important part of a library's budget), your needs being met?  

      Beautiful space? check.  Basic maintenance? check.  Good collection?  check!  

      I've never waited more than 5 minutes to check out books.  I've never tried to get a book they did not have (though sometimes you have to wait).  It just seems like it is beautiful, up to date, etc etc so why the need for such an increase?  Do you have library needs that are not being met (excluding the discussion of branch libraries?)

      I'm serious — are the patrons satisfied?  do we know?

    2. Reserve books online

      Did you know you can reserve books on line?  The Encyclopedia Britannica has and online Kids section. It also no longer has a print edition. (In March 2012, Britannica's president, Jorge Cauz, announced that it would not produce any new print editions of the encyclopaedia, with the 2010 15th edition being the last. The company will focus only on the online edition and other educational tools.[3][18])

  12. A need for separation

    I would like to be able to vote for the library board directly, in that they levy taxes. Essentially they are appointed by the Mayor, right?

    Also, I think the city should not send out email blasts on behalf of the library, nor perform any other activity for the library. It should stand on its own. The library should do this. I need separation here.

  13. Annual dues

    Seniors 55 and over have to pay an Annual Dues ($30.00) for membership at the Levy Center. Plus they have to pay for other services (gym useage for one). Why not chage an annual fee for use of the library and charge for some of the services offered.

  14. Unlicensed Day Care

    The Branches of the Library are nothing more then unlicensed Day care locations. Both branches are less then  TWO Miles from MAIN Library and should be closed. The Board should focus on up grading and maintaining the Main Library. Board compares what Evanston spends vs other communities. Is the bood comparing Apples to Apples. Do Evanston taxpayers pay    for items when going to the library that others don't? You have to include all costs not pick and choose

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