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City to Charge Library Rent for North Branch Use, Library Board to Amend 2012 Budget

The Evanston Public Library Board will have to either amend its adopted 2012 budget or renegotiate with the city after the City of Evanston's budget revealed it expected $75,800 in North Branch rent from the library.

The Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees will likely have to amend the 2012 library budget passed at after discovering that the city intends to charge the library rent for the use of the city-owned North Branch building, 2026 Central Street.

The City of Evanston’s proposed 2012 budget, released Oct. 8, includes $75,800 in expected revenue from renting out the North Branch space to the library. In past years, the library has not paid for use of the North Branch space. Though the city also owns the Main Branch library space, there is currently no indication that the city intends to charge the library for the use of that space, as well.

At Wednesday night’s board meeting, Paul Gottschalk, administrative service manager for the Evanston Public Library, said that the new rent was part of the city’s recent attempts to increase revenue and reduce expenditures to balance their 2012 budget from a near $2 million deficit.

An Oct. 19 memo from Library Board Treasurer Dianne Allen stated, “The Library did not anticipate this expense therefore the Board’s FY2012 budget must be revised by either increasing the Library property tax levy or by reducing expenses.”

The library budget adopted at last month’s board meeting included the equivalent of a 6.1 percent levy increase to the library’s share of city property taxes from an adjusted 2011 budget, estimated to add an additional $6.67 to the property tax bill of a $300,000 Evanston home (totaling the library’s portion of the property tax bill at $122.96).

If the board votes to fund the newfound rental costs by increasing the tax levy even further, the amended budget would require raising the levy the equivalent of 8 percent, equaling an approximated $9.53 increase to the property tax bill of a $300,000 Evanston home (totaling the library’s portion of the property tax bill at $125.82).

However, the board could instead choose to eliminate one or more expenditures rather than raise its levy.

Last month’s approved library budget included funding to both keep the North Branch library open at current service levels and create a new community engagement librarian position, but both expenditures were hotly debated, with some board members saying that they thought it was unfair to raise property taxes throughout Evanston to continue funding for a library that only serves the city’s north side.

“I am a property tax payer and the people in my community are, and we are not receiving the same services as on the north side,” said Board President Sharron Arceneaux said. “My children and my neighbors’ children would not be able to get up here and tell everyone how wonderful it was to skip to the library…In my neighborhood, it’s mostly minority children that need the most help… We are putting money into one of the wealthiest areas in the town. We’re not putting that same money into the west side of Evanston.”

Last month’s library budget , with one board member abstaining, and the board has gained a new member since then.

A third option for the board would be to renegotiate with the City of Evanston for rent-free use of the building.

In past months, as the library board has made preparations to become an autonomous governing body after voting last year to adopt a new library fund model, the board has looked to solidify its relationship with the city through a Memorandum of Understanding.

But Allen said that at no point during discussions did the city representatives mention any intention to charge the library rent for use of the North Branch space.

Evanston resident Jeff Smith spoke at Wednesday’s meeting saying that The Local Library Act, the Illinois statute that allows city libraries to adopt a library fund model of governance, states that any building constructed for library purposes would become the library’s and that there is no suggestion that any payment would be necessary for the transfer.

“We have two buildings that were built exclusively for library purposes and a tax payer who has been paying and will continue to pay taxes for library purposes, I’d like to see those buildings remain and no rental required,” Smith said. “It makes about as much sense as the fire department paying rent to the city for a fire station…This board should take whatever action is necessary…to assert and clear clean title to both existing library properties.”

Though Article 5 of the Illinois Local Library Act covers how a library board adopting a library fund model can rent, buy, remodel, expand and fund library buildings, Evanston Patch could not find any statement within the document regarding the transfer of building ownership or the ability of the city to charge rent.

Additionally, though the library board has already voted to adopt a library fund model and it has been tentatively approved by the city, the Evanston City Council has not passed an ordinance to make the change official. And while library board members insist that the Illinois Local Library Act provides the board the legal right to make the change if it votes to do so, Gottschalk said that it was still up in the air as to whether conversion would officially take place.

The library board will vote to amend its 2012 budget when it reconvenes on Nov. 9.

Lori Keenan October 27, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Wasn't there just a community wide vote for Evanston 150 in which "Branch Libraries across Evanston" was one of the top 30 ideas? Clearly the City Manager hasn't been able to get his way about eliminating the North Branch, so this is his latest ploy. He continues to pit neighborhood against neighborhood, rather than listening to the voice of the Citizens, from the Budget process a year ago that ranked Libraries, and specifically Branch Libraries only behind Police and Fire Protection in terms of importance, to the most recent vote last weekend ranking them in the Top 30 of 2,012 ideas presented from across the community. I hope the Library Board will continue to hold its ground, recognizing that there is a groundswell of support not only for North Branch, but for smaller branch libraries throughout the community in places where people can access them within their neighborhoods, in a model similar to that of the Evanston Public Library Friends' The Mighty Twig, which serves a large percentage of people for a relatively small cost. I'm curious to know how our Aldermen feel about this latest ploy. Charge the taxpayers $75k/year to rent property we already paid for and own? That's weird, and I think, unprecedented, no?
Kit Sullivan October 27, 2011 at 02:41 PM
This is just a thinly disguised way of the City Manager preparing to shut down North Branch. And after all, why should he think he can't? He shut down South Branch, knowing that it would be to the detriment of those living in the branch's footprint. The City Manager does not answer to voters and really holds all the power here. He has most people convinced that only he can "save" the city. I'd rather have my branches!
elizabeth grudzien October 27, 2011 at 02:57 PM
this is cannabililsm
mij October 27, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Lori The Library Bard is setting up as a separate taxing body. They should pay rent to city.
Matt October 27, 2011 at 05:14 PM
The north branch SHOULD be closed. And if it does stay open, then they should AT LEAST pay rent. And as far as the Evanston 150 voting ranking the branch libraries high, don't kid yourselves. The process that Evanston 150 went about to get the finalists was stacked in the first place. The overall number of voters in the voting sessions should have been an eye-opener to the group that their entire process is deeply flawed. Those who did actually vote were the very groups that filled the 100 list with redundancies and drove their people out to advance their agendas. A city the geographic size of Evanston does not need three libraries.
Kit Sullivan October 27, 2011 at 07:26 PM
A city the size of Evanston does, however, need to be able to provide assistance to those who do not have access to the services most of us take for granted, i.e. computers with internet access, newspapers and magazines, books, and the occasional human reference (not just books) person. This is what the branches have always provided. They are not "just libraries" as you would know had you been to any of the meetings regarding South Branch and if you ever dropped in to the Mighty Twig or to the North Branch.
mij October 27, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Evanston has a large Main Library which has computers,magazines,books and newspapers. The board sould focus on it and close the brance on Central.
Kit Sullivan October 27, 2011 at 09:27 PM
We have been over this argument so many times. I don't know much about the branch on Central but can only say that branches in general are good for the city as a whole. I know that South Branch - and now the Mighty Twig - is a resource for the city used by people who otherwise are not able to get to the main library. Not everyone has the wherewithal, be it physical, monetary or mental, to get to the main library.
Kevin O'Connor October 28, 2011 at 01:22 AM
Wally, our 175k salaried City Manager, made a couple of points in his budget address to the City Council a couple of Saturdays ago ( no Citizen Comment allowed at that meeting, why listen to the peasants, they are so annoying) first point was that the COE faces a budget deficit of 2.1 million. That is a load of manure! By maintaining the status quo of giving away our scarce tax dollars for facade improvements, consultants, sales tax rebates, TIF slush funds to connected developers/lawyers we face an alleged deficit. The truth is that there is around 2 million in the Economic Development Fund that is used to BRIBE businesses to stay or come to Evanston. Talk about misplaced priorities. Evanston has the CTA, Metra, Lakefront & N. U., however we have no civic self esteem, pride or confidence amongst our elected officials, only our tax dollars to give away. Wally also said all the spending for economic development means nothing without the perception of Evanston being safe. Hello, where was a permanent West Side Branch when our Mayor & senior aldermen had control of the Library Budget. Furthermore, there is no ownership taken by this group for the bankrupting of Evanston on their watch. The junior aldermen will not call the senior politicians to account even though they ran on platforms of economic reform. Einstein said: " Doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome is the definition of insanity". To paraphrase John Kass: "That's the Evanston Way!"
Jeff S October 28, 2011 at 03:50 PM
I mentioned Article 5 only as additional context. While Article 5 itself says nothing about transfer, Section 4 of the the Local Library Act provides for the Library Board to have the "exclusive" control of the construction, care, and custody of library buildings. The separate Public Library District Act states that if a local library (which is what Evanston's is) converted to a district the library buildings become assets of the district. The whole legislative scheme is what needs to be kept in mind. The larger point is that this doesn't need to be part of a budget discussion. Ideally, cool heads and common sense will prevail and work it out. With resources tight, conflict is too costly. Collaboration is far preferable as a touchstone.
mij October 28, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Benn to all three. The Main Library has all the items you mentioned and is 2 miles or less from what used to be the South Branch and w2hat is currently the North Branch. No reason a city this size needs thee libraries
Kit Sullivan October 28, 2011 at 11:15 PM
mij - when you visited, did you at least walk to get some of the experience? You make it sound pretty simple but if you haven't been in a position where it is not easy/possible to get downtown then it isn't that simple.
Kevin O'Connor October 29, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Hello, MATT & mij: Both of you should read the article posted today on Evanston Patch about the Mighty Twig's services & user counts. Pretty impressive, one would have to agree. It is clearly obvious that Evanstonians are overwhelmingly using the services provided by the Mighty Twig. I would also ask both of you, if you think our City should be spending approximately 80k of our scarce tax dollars on a consulting contract with Kane McKenna (the beneficiary of so many COE consulting contracts they should have their own separate line in our budget) regarding TIF districts. Our own 175k salaried City Manager has stated at past public budget hearings that he has heard the citizens loud and clear: " No more spending on consultants. " Ooops, the City Council has directed Wally to spend, spend and spend, even though we're broke. I find it curious that the COE spends 80k for a consultant then wants to turn around and for the first time ever charge 75k rent on a taxpayer owned building that we've already paid for with our tax dollars. Unlike our thin skinned City Council, it's good to see your opinions on Patch, however the fiscal bankruptcy of Evanston did not happen overnight, nor in a vacumn. It took a lot of years to make mistakes so bad that led us to & over the fiscal precipice and the blame is widespread.
mij October 29, 2011 at 04:45 PM
I osted comments at various times about some of the spending that makes no sense on various issues. All one needs to do is stand in front of council ask for some $$$$$$$$$$$$ dollars and thay say how much. Like the money given to developer that owns the Main and Chicago property for one. All they desire is to raise more taxes and put more in forclosure and city poorer. They need to look at all the vacant stores and wonder why the burbs one the edge are getting the new businesses and not Evanston. Seems more leave then come.
Kevin O'Connor October 30, 2011 at 10:24 PM
mij, I could not agree more. "Privatizing profit and socializing risk" seem to be the only behavior model for our elected officials of thios Council and previous Councils. No cost/benefit analysis has ever been done that shows all the continued spending, property & sales tax rebates do anything beneficial for the taxpayer. However the painful fact is that the CIty promised residents and businesses @ the start of the now closed Downtown II TIF that if the TIF district was approved, the windfall 23 years later when the TIF was closed would provide for no tax increases and pay for our City services. Of course, what no one in this Council wants to acknowledge (especially the senior aldermen & former alderman/current Mayor Tisdahl is that: taxes have been increased, fees have been raised, services have been cut and/or reduced, and businesses & residents are leaving Evanston. Naturally, these political creatures pretend that it didn't happen on their watch or it was due to some external event. The painful reality is that they gave away the store to lawywers, developers and insiders. One would prefer an honest scoundrel(s) over our fake liberal one party town (Democratic). A fake conservative is no better, though when Evanston was Republican into the 1960s the City was solvent, taxes were reasonable, services were delivered efficiently and cost effectively, businesses were not bribed to stay her or to come here and most importantly the political class had civic self esteem. No more
mij October 31, 2011 at 12:43 AM
Increasing fees on things used by property owners is no mote then a tax increase under a different name. So next year tax iscrease of 8% is coming up plus the Library board may add a line item to tax bill. Still think the board should consider a fee for the Library Card. Perhaps $25.00 for three year card.

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