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updated: 10/18/2010 11:57 PM

Des Plaines leaders say they will work with library to keep it open

City officials will vote on loan

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Des Plaines city leaders Monday night said they would work with the municipal library to keep it from closing in December for lack of operating funds due to an anticipated delay in Cook County property tax receipts.

Though the city council made no decisions Monday on the library's request for an up to $1.5 million loan to carry it through the end of the year, city aldermen said they have been fielding calls from constituents asking they not let the library go dark.

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Public pressure increased after the library's finance committee voted last week to recommend closing the library on Dec. 5 if the city doesn't bail it out by cosigning for a bank loan. The library board will vote on that option at 7 tonight.

On Monday, library officials explained their financial situation to the city council during a discussion on the proposed 2011 budget, which also requires city approval since the library is not a separate taxing body and its levy is approved by the city.

Library Director Holly Sorensen told the city council the library needs only $500,000 to get through the end of the year and that the loan request does not affect next year's budget.

"It's a cash-flow issue because of the late payment of the second installment of the property tax by Cook County, Sorensen said.

Cook County property tax disbursements have historically been late and the second installment of tax bills isn't expected to go out until after Nov. 22. The library is waiting on a little over $3 million from property tax receipts.

As of Sept. 30, the library had $1.1 million that it could spend through the end of the year, but it needs $1.7 million for the year's remaining payroll and operating expenses.

Library officials have held off on planned improvements this year such as upgrading restrooms and reconfiguring the library's fourth floor to make space for additional computers and move the help desk to a central location. Officials also stopped buying materials such as books, DVDs or music in August.

Sorensen said the library would definitely need $500,000 by Dec. 1 to stay open. The city council will discuss the loan request at its Nov. 1 meeting.

Ward 5 Alderman James Brookman said he felt the library was putting pressure on the council to approve the loan by announcing its plan to close in December.

"I guess it's an unfortunate situation that we're going to be asked to vote on this on the same night it comes up, he said.

Ward 3 Alderman Matt Bogusz said he is not ready to give feedback on the library's proposed 2011 budget until this year's financial situation is resolved.

The library is requesting $6.1 million from the city for its operations in 2011, similar to its 2010 budget.

The proposed 2011 budget includes roughly $625,000 in cuts to personnel eight full-timers and two part-timers and other expenses. Raises have been frozen for the 2011 calendar year, library employees will pay more toward their medical premiums, and they will be required to take one furlough day next year the day after Thanksgiving 2011.

"What we've done in the 2011 budget is to cut expenditures so that we are not in the same situation next year, Sorensen said.

Library officials said they hope to build up a reserve fund balance so they won't need to ask for a loan again next year.

Ward 2 Alderman John Robinson, who also sits on the library board, said library officials spent many meetings coming up with a leaner budget incorporating cuts without affecting patron services.

"They are trying to follow the suit of the city, he said. "We're able to save the bookmobile program and still cut full-time jobs. We are being very proactive next year.

Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said the city attorney is still reviewing the intergovernmental agreement for the loan and there will be some changes made such as removing the clause allowing the library 10 years to repay the loan.

"Certainly, the city is not going to let the library close, Moylan said. "We're going to work that situation out to make sure we keep the library open and make sure we provide quality service and present a zero-based budget.

However, it's not a done deal until the council votes, he added.

Open: Mayor says 'city is not going to let the library close'

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