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Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl Monday night defended the planned 11 percent property tax hike ordered by the city’s appointed library board.

Tisdahl, who selects the library board members, said the spending increase would support the goal of having all children learning to read by third grade. “Libraries are an integral part of making that happen,” Tisdahl said.

At a City Council budget meeting, aldermen, who have consistently approved the mayor’s library board appointments without question, said little about the library tax hike, which represents by far the biggest property tax increase in the 2015 city budget.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz whether — if the library were still under his budgetary control he would have recommended that it match the 3 percent spending reduction that he imposed on the city’s other non-public-safety department.

Bobkiewicz responded that, yes, he would have.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said that aside from the library, the budget was the best she’d seen, a sign the city was “living within its means.”

And, given that the council no longer has control over the library budget, “I’m not sure why we’re even talking about them,” Burrus said.

Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons.

The library’s director, Karen Danczak Lyons, said the tax hike for the average resident “would be less than the price of a new book” and said Evanston still spends less on its library than some nearby communities.

“With some additional investment, we can do so much more,” Lyons said.

While property taxes for all other city services will show a decrease of about 0.28 percent under the proposed city budget next year, the 11 percent increase for the library will add, according to a formula provided by city staff, about $24 to the property tax bill of a person with a home that has a market value of $300,000.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. Looks like Karen Danczak

    Looks like Karen Danczak Lyons want to build her own center of power on the backs of the taxpayers continuing to expand the mission of a library and the mayor continues to be clueless. I thought Lyons hired a fulltime fundraiser for the library. Apparently that hasn't worked out so well because she is still raising taxes. Now the expensive library is trying to do the job that is part of the expensive school system mission. The mayor's job should be to fire the library board if they don't fire the library director.

    Didn't our country fight a revolution over " taxation without representation"?

    1. A deeper hand

      My recollection is that the library budget use to be part of a tax bill in summation with other city institutions,  The grand amount went to the city manager and council, and I understand that the intended percentage for the library was skimmed to add money to other budget items.  That could have meant that, for years, what the library was scheduled to get never quite got there.

      Somebody clever with finances could probably look into budget dispersal before the library split off and find out if there were years when it got what the city manager chose, not its assigned percentage.  If so, that would have given city government a much deeper hand in the library budget.  Maybe that's why Wally B winces now.

    2. The mission of EPL (according

      The mission of EPL (according to their website) is as follows:

      Evanston Public Library aims to be the heart of the community by promoting the development of independent, self-confident, and literate citizens by providing open access to cultural, intellectual, technological and, informational resources.

      Here is its posted vision statement:

      The Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees envisions a community in which the Library engages all residents in reaching their aspirations.

      The Library’s staff, collections, programs, technology and leadership help ensure:

      That every Evanston resident has the opportunity to enjoy an intellectually and culturally rich life
      That every child enters school with the requisite developmental skills and continues to develop critical thinking and literacy skills including reading and functional literacy
      That every child experiences the pleasure of reading and the joy of learning
      That our community celebrates, appreciates and supports its diversity
      That those in need can find assistance and information with ease
      That every resident experiences the pleasure of reading and the joy of lifelong learning

       

      I don't think there's anything wrong w/the director working towards this mission. Sure, there are similarities between the school districts and the library. Collaboration ensures success. It is true that our library lacks the pizzaz that other places nearby have. I'd love to see a stronger collection, more programming, more visible professional librarians in the children's spaces, and hopefully a Makerspace (with 3D printing, laser cutters, etc.). I'd need to learn more about how they hope to spend the funds, but currently this doesn't seem like too much to ask. Why shouldn't WE have a great library? You get what you pay for, and $24 a year seems fair.

      1. Maybe the EPL should just

        Maybe the EPL should just work on being very good library. Deal with books and eductional videos. Stay out of the entertainment business. The EPL's mission reads like a social engineering project that will create new and improved Evanston citizens. The EPL's board is taxing us without representing us. I was underthe impression that this is unconstitutionl. In fact, I am sure our country's founding fathers fought a war over this.

  2. They posted a surplus in 2013, why raise taxes now?

    So, according to their website, the Library posted a suprlus last year of more than $191,000. Why do they need more money? Why do they not use their Foundation (with $millions in assets)? Please don't say it's to teach children to read (that's for the other taxing bodies to do).

    This is a very slippery slope, especially so in that they (Library Board) are not responsible to the tax payer but the Mayor/Council only. It may only be 11% this year, then only 10% next year, then anothyer 10% the following year and pretty soon it's a very substantial amount. 

    I'm all for the Library – we use it all the time – but I am not for a indirectly accountable organization who can tax at will but is not accountable and who did not step up to support their own branch libraries, despite having the money to do so (Foundation).

  3. Library increase

    The tax rate for the library system in Evanston is about 4% of the total bill so an increase of 11% represents .4% increase! That is less than 1/2 of one percent.

    Our library system has been woefully underfunded for almost 30 years. When my children were at ETHS and needed to visit a library, we went to Skokie because they had a better collection and were open most evenings. Those children are now 34 and 37 and the system has been underfunded for all those years.

    Evanston should be embarrassed by the fact that our collection is considered sub-standard by the State of Illinois. 

    This has nothing to do with anyone creating a power base. It has to do with providing the residents of Evanston a better than mediocre library system.

  4. Library Finally Getting Proper Leadership and Attention

    I fully support this increase. Evanston's library system has been woefully neglected for many years and did not reflect the public access to learning and community that a library can be – very ironic in a city like Evanston. The new library director is terrific and the programming under her leadership has been creative, diverse and welcoming to many groups and age throughout the City. We should continue to support her efforts and our library system to the very best of our abilities.

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