Library director: Residents would foot the bill of a new facility
By upgrading their facilities, Fox River Valley Public Library District officials hope to provide residents with more space, variety and opportunities. But the cost of those improvements may be on the taxpayers' dime.
For months, library users have been asked to weigh in on preliminary concepts for two future projects: the renovation of the Dundee Library in East Dundee and the development of a new library to replace the Randall Oaks Branch Library on the west side of the river.
The district, however, doesn't have the budget for large-scale projects, Director Roxane Bennett said, especially the construction of a new facility.
"We don't have the money to do any new building at this point," she said. "Anything we do will have to go to the voters for their OK (to raise property taxes)."
As part of a "Designing Our Future" initiative, the district and architect Joe Huberty, a partner at Engberg Anderson, are working residents' feedback into the plans for a new 75,000-square-foot library.
Preliminary concepts for that building include a children's space, a cafe with vending machines, an after hours drive-through book return or pickup, compartmentalized meeting rooms, more technology and larger group areas.
"We're expecting people to come to the library with a wide range of ideas and activities in mind," Huberty said.
During a public forum Tuesday, several residents expressed concerns regarding development costs and questioned how the improvements would affect their tax bills.
The district expects to receive cost estimates this spring, Bennett said, at which point residents will have another chance to provide feedback.
Then, library trustees will decide whether to place a referendum question on the fall 2016 ballot that would raise property taxes for the district's more than 70,000 residents in East Dundee, West Dundee, Carpentersville, Gilberts, Sleepy Hollow and parts of Algonquin.
"We hope we've been listening well enough to what (residents) want," Bennett said, noting the district hasn't asked for a tax hike in decades. "Our board will be needing to make a decision about whether a referendum has a reasonable chance of being supported by the community."
If voters approve the referendum, district officials and developers will begin looking at more detailed designs rather than conceptual plans, she added.
"Until we know this is something the community is supporting, we're not wanting to spend a lot of money on design," Bennett said.
A prepaid lease for the Randall Oaks Branch Library, located in the Randall Oaks Recreation Center, ends in August 2017, at which point the library is allowed to remain in the facility while paying rent for another five years.
The earliest the district could move into a new library would be fall of 2019, Bennett said.
Officials have been looking at potential library sites on the west side, but they will not close on a property unless residents approve the tax hike, Bennett said.
"We don't want to get out ahead of our voters," she said.