Des Plaines library might end year Dec. 5

The Des Plaines Public Library could go dark in December if officials can't come up with nearly $600,000 needed to keep it open through the end of the year.

The library's three-member finance committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend closing the library Dec. 5 under the worst-case scenario if the city doesn't bail it out by cosigning for a bank loan. The library board will vote on that option at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.

As of Sept. 30, the library had $1.1 million that it could spend through the end of the year, library finance committee Chairman Jeffrey Rozovics said Wednesday. It needs $1.7 million for the year's remaining payroll and operating expenses, and it's doubtful that Cook County property tax receipts will come in before December ends.

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.

So it'll be roughly $600,000 short.

“We've spent the last 10 years letting $60 million slip through our fingers and we haven't set any money aside for contingencies, new library board member Dion Kendrick said, referring to the lack of a significant cash reserves to carry the library through such times.

Rozovics disagreed, saying reserves have actually carried the library through thus far.

Since the municipal library is not a taxing body, it needs the city to authorize and cosign for a bank loan. Under the proposed intergovernmental agreement, the library is asking for a loan of up to $1.5 million, which it would have 10 years to pay back.

Des Plaines 2nd Ward Alderman John Robinson, who also serves on the library board, said that part of the agreement may have to be altered because it would be hard to sell to the city council.

Though the library board is banking on the city approving its intergovernmental agreement for the loan, it still must pass review by the city's legal and financial departments and be vetted by the city council, Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said Wednesday.

At a September city council budget hearing, some Des Plaines leaders expressed disappointment with the library board for not formally presenting the library's budget to the city council for consideration.

“They didn't come to the city yet to explain what their needs are or how they are going to improve their financial status in the future, Moylan said. “If they are saying they have to close, there's other ways they can address their financial problems.

In previous years, the city has covered any shortfalls in property taxes to the library since their accounting was done together. But this year the library decided to outsource its legal, human resources, financial and media services.

Moylan said the city council is not going to rubber-stamp the library's loan request.

“They have the wrong impression of what this council is, he said. “When they show the city that they are making necessary cuts, just like the city did to stave off massive tax increases, I'm sure the city council will listen.

The city council is not expected to discuss the library's loan request until its Nov. 1 meeting, but the council will review the library's budget on Oct. 18.

The library is requesting $6.5 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.

Library officials are holding 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 since August.

Even if the library remains closed in December, it would still cost $230,000 for that month to cover expenses such as insurance, telephone bills and other contractual obligations, Library Director Holly Sorensen said.

Those library employees on furlough for that month would be eligible to apply for unemployment compensation, she added.

Should the library close in December, its online resources and databases would still be available for patrons including students working on school research papers, officials said.

Library officials are hopeful that if they get over this hump they may not have to borrow from the city again next year. Officials are projecting a $2.5 million fund balance at the end of 2011, but that still depends on timely disbursement of Cook County property tax receipts.

“If all our projections hold true, we should have money and not have to borrow in 2011, Rozovics said.

Loan: Officials hopeful they won't need to borrow next year