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Mayor backs big library tax hike

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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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