More space for the main branch library in downtown Aurora has been a "critical" need since 2000, library representatives say.
It's a need that could be met by raising Aurora homeowners' taxes and selling $30 million in bonds to finance a new downtown library building and other system improvements, library Director Eva Luckinbill told the Aurora Finance Committee Tuesday.
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"To address the situation and to provide library services to Aurora, the most efficient and the best way to do this is to build a new library downtown," she said.
Aldermen countered that the library needs to educate the public about just how critical the need for additional space is.
Alderman Lynda Elmore said she's been fielding "tough questions" from residents concerned about the tax increase required to sell the bonds and other details of the library's plan to build a new main branch at the southwest corner of River and Benton streets.
To support the sale of $30 million in bonds, the library is requesting the city levy taxes that would cost the owner of a home valued at $180,000 an average of $26.40 more a year for 30 years.
"The tough thing for me right now is the tax base," Elmore said.
In her ward on Aurora's far East side, home values are higher, yet some residents are facing foreclosure and other financial challenges.
"This isn't a choice of buying a latte or paying for a new library," Elmore said. "It's a choice to feed the children or pay for a new library."
The library has held public meetings and gained resident input, but Elmore said residents have not been informed of any changes the library has made to its plans based on public suggestions.
She asked specifically whether the library had changed its parking plans after suggestions that handicapped spaces need to be as close to the entrance as possible.
"We have listened and we are working on a solution to that," library board President Jeffry Butler said.
Aldermen on the finance committee also suggested the library look into grant funding to cut the project's costs and decrease the amount of bonds that would need to be sold.
Luckinbill said that request puts the library in a difficult spot because attempts to secure grant funding won't be successful without demonstrated financial support from the city. Paying for architects and consultants to finalize parking layouts and other aspects of the new building plan also are becoming more difficult without funding from the sale of bonds, she said.
The new library building would provide more study space, meeting space and access to technology than is possible at the current building, which has not been expanded since 1969.
The finance committee would need to recommend the sale of bonds and the tax increase before the proposal could be considered by city council. The committee will continue discussing the library's proposal at its March 27 meeting.