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posted: 7/4/2012 12:16 PM

After tax increase, Aurora library cuts nonresident fee

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Aurora residents will pay higher property taxes for the next 30 years to support construction of a new downtown library.

But for this year, at least, folks living outside the city actually will pay less to use Aurora's library services -- and one alderman isn't happy about it.

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"The library sits there and tells us why they have to spend $30 million (for a new library and technology) and raise taxes and then turns around and smacks taxpayers in the mouth," Alderman Rick Lawrence said. "They've got to start respecting the taxpayers of Aurora. That's the problem -- nobody in this city respects the taxpayers."

Lawrence became angry when he learned the Aurora Public Library board voted in June to reduce the amount nonresidents pay for an annual library card from $165 to $160 beginning July 1.

The board approved the price rollback after using a state-approved formula to determine the average cost of library services for each household within its boundaries, spokeswoman Amy Roth said.

The formula divides the amount the library receives in property taxes -- $10,159,967 this year -- by Aurora's population of 197,899 to determine the average cost of library services per person. That cost then is multiplied by the average number of residents in each household, as provided by the Census Bureau. The result is the minimum libraries are allowed to charge for nonresident library cards -- in Aurora's case, $156.04.

"The board said, 'Let's make it an even figure: $160 per year,'" Roth said.

That's a $5 reduction for each of the roughly 50 nonresident families that bought library cards last year. Two years ago, the fee was $190.

Roth said the decrease materialized because the formula was based for the first time on the higher population number from the 2010 census. In previous years, the formula was based on a population of 170,617.

Lawrence said the decision to reduce fees for nonresidents is unfair, especially coming just three months after the city council approved a property tax increase of roughly $26 a year for a home valued at $180,000 to fund the new library and systemwide technology improvements.

He said the nonresident fee should be higher and called the formula used to set it "convoluted."

Roth said some libraries use other methods to determine nonresident fees, such as setting the price individually for each prospective user. In Aurora, the library board has chosen to use the formula, believing it is the fairest method of charging nonresidents for services.

"It's an easier way, it's an equitable way ... to make sure people who are nonresidents can have access to library services," Roth said. "For Aurora, that's what the board feels is the best way to do it."

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