Sugar Grove Library studying what cuts to make

Don't be looking for many new materials this spring at the Sugar Grove Library. Library officials have canceled almost all the orders after voters on Tuesday refused to give the library more money to operate.

"Cuts are going to have to come," said Louise Coffman, treasurer of the library board. Thursday the board discussed where to cut its budget, and what things it can't cut.

Expenses that have to be paid include utility bills, insurance and the costs of maintenance, Coffman said. "We know those costs are not going down, they are going up," she said.

That means more and more of the library's operating funds will be spent on the building, not on materials, programming and staff, she said.

And cuts will have to be made this spring, Coffman said, in part because the library has received all the property taxes it will until the end of its fiscal year in June. Property taxes account for about 93 percent of revenue that supports operations. There is a separate levy for the library's debt.

Compounding matters is that the library might receive fewer property tax dollars this year for operations. Coffman said the Kane County clerk's office has told library officials to expect about $15,000 less than last year, due to a drop in property values. The library is taxing at the maximum rate limit.

Tuesday's referendum asked voters to increase taxes by about 40 percent, which would have given the library $332,477 for fiscal year 2014-15.

The loss surprised Coffman. "We didn't have an outcry" against a tax increase, she said. "What we heard from users and residents was overwhelmingly positive."

"I truly don't think it was a 'no' vote against the library. I think it is a 'no' vote to an increase in taxes in general," Trustee Pat Graceffa said in an email interview. "The economy is still bad, the state is in terrible trouble and people are afraid it will result in more taxes being paid by us all. Incomes have suffered for the past five years while the bills we pay have escalated."

Graceffa noted that more people are using the library, more cards are being issued, more cards are being renewed, and more materials are being checked out.

"So people are coming to the library now more than ever and they are happy with what we have to offer. Now we will just have to figure out what we have to do to help our library survive.

"That last statement sounds dramatic, but at this point survival is what we are talking about," Graceffa said.

The library will continue with plans to buy nonfiction science, technology, engineering and mathematics books for the children's department, because it has a $5,000 grant to do so, Coffman said.

The board will poll users and others, probably via email and paper fliers at the library, about priorities. Do they prefer to have more materials, but fewer hours of operation, or vice versa?

"Would you like books or light bulbs? Because you can't have both," Coffman said.

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