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updated: 5/31/2012 4:22 PM

Des Plaines Library planning improvements with surplus

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Awash with surplus funds, the Des Plaines Public Library could be making some improvements to its building next year.

After a few years of belt-tightening, the library is out of the woods with healthier finances heading into the 2013 calendar year, Library Director Holly Sorensen said. Library officials are projecting a year-end surplus of $3.1 million due to cost-cutting measures taken since 2010.

"We stopped buying everything, books, cut out some of those projects that we had in there," Sorensen said, such as the bookmobile service ended last December after more than 42 years.

At a recent library board finance committee meeting, the panel recommended establishing a cash reserve of $1.2 million at the end of each year to weather delays in property tax receipts from Cook County as has been a common experience in years past.

In 2011, the library board considered borrowing $1.5 million with help from the city of Des Plaines due to delays in receiving the second installment of property tax disbursements from Cook County. The money -- roughly $3 million in property tax receipts -- eventually came in allowing the library to forego borrowing.

The panel also recommended setting aside $300,000 of the surplus for capital expenses or future projects.

"Our building is 12 years old and we are starting to see wear and tear and we need to make sure that we have money put aside to do what we want to do," Sorensen said.

Sorensen said she would like to reconfigure the library's fourth floor, where the reference collection is housed, and consolidate the public computers and wired technology scattered about the room into one area with the help desk in the middle.

"Our reference collection is about half of what it used to be" she said. "We have that space right now to convert."

She said she also would like to create a seating area for patrons who bring in their own wireless devices.

"You can go anywhere in the building and use your wireless device," Sorensen said. "We are trying to make it more efficient for our users."

The library board is yet to discuss the finance committee's recommendations and ideas for future projects.

Sorensen said the tax levy will be on a future meeting agenda for the finance committee.

"We're going into (2013) in good shape so I'm going to recommend that we don't ask for an increase in the tax levy. I think we could lower it a little bit and we'll be fine."

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