Sugar Grove Library forges on, despite tax vote loss

Hours of service might not get better for the Sugar Grove Library, but they may not get worse either, even though voters last week turned down a request for more money to operate the facility for the fifth time.

Whether the library board will ask voters again in November for a tax increase is up to the library's trustees. This defeat was by the largest percentage yet.

Before the referendum, library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes said hours might have to be cut further, depending on how much the library spent on utilities this winter for its new building. The larger library opened at 125 S. Municipal Drive in August, and Hughes was not sure how much natural gas and electricity it would take to heat and light the facility.

Hughes was disappointed by the defeat of the question, which asked for permission to raise the operating tax rate limit to 20 cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation. The library is presently taxing at about 9 cents per $100 EAV, prevented from raising its tax levy much by the state's property tax cap law. That law limits the amount a levy can be increased to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

In the meantime, the library will make do.

"The library staff are dedicated to giving the community the best service on the funds they have available," Hughes said.

Library board president Art Morrical has not returned calls for comment.

The library board will meet Thursday. It has until Aug. 30 to decide whether to place a question on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The board was prepared in case the voters agreed to the tax increase. It set a levy in December that factored the increase in. But since it didn't, the library won't get the full amount of that levy when property taxes are collected in June and September.

If the request had gone through, the board planned to add 20 hours of service per week to the schedule. The library is open 44 hours per week. Neighboring libraries are open 66 to 68 hours per week.

The money would have also been used to add materials to the collection.

Voters have repeatedly rejected requests for more operating taxes for the library, even during a referendum in which they approved building the new library. Approval of this tax increase would have cost the owner of a $500,000 home $173 in the first year, library officials estimated.

Voter turnout Feb. 2 in the six precincts in Sugar Grove Township was among the highest in Kane County, ranging from 21 percent to nearly 41 percent. Besides the library referendum, voters in those precincts may have also turned out to vote in a Republican primary for the 25th District Senate seat in which Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels was an unsuccessful candidate.

This time, 66 percent of voters said "no" to a tax increase, the highest negative ratio yet. In November 2008, it was 62 percent; in February 2008 and April 2007, 53 percent did; and in November 2006, 55 percent rejected it.

The majority of lights are off at the Sugar Grove Library to conserve energy and save on the electric bill. Utilities are paid with operating funds, and voters have repeatedly refused to increase them. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer