New-look Villa Park Library could emerge from April election
A $10.6 million proposal to expand and renovate the Villa Park Public Library will hinge on whether voters approve a property tax increase in the April 4 election.
Library officials say they decided to pursue the spring referendum question to raise property taxes after holding nine meetings over the past year to examine building and programming needs at the aging structure and explore options for addressing them.
Officials say the library at 305 S. Ardmore Ave., built in 1969 and last renovated roughly 20 years ago, will require about $5.4 million in repairs over the next five years for things such as a roof and improvements to its elevator and heating and air conditioning systems.
Paying for those repairs, they say, will require either a tax increase or reductions in library hours, materials and services.
In addition, they say, the library needs to adjust to changing times in which patrons are looking for greater access to technology and public meeting spaces.
"We tried to involve the community in the planning process as much as possible," library Director Sandra Hill said Thursday. "All of those (building) systems are tied together. We want to do the project as a whole; otherwise you're wasting taxpayer dollars."
The plan being put before voters calls for expanding the 24,500-square-foot building to 31,300 square feet and adding sprinklers, more parking, quiet reading rooms, group and private study areas, community meeting rooms and a larger area for teens.
The improvements would expand the library's life for another 50 years, officials say.
The proposed 20-year bond issue would cost $10,599,706, including $6.9 million for building construction, $1 million for site construction and roughly $744,500 for furniture, shelves and equipment.
If voters approve the proposal, the library's portion of the tax bill for a $200,000 home would increase from $245 a year to about $335 -- a $90 annual increase.
Payments to the library represent about 4.4 percent of the average property tax bill for a Villa Park homeowner.
Library officials say they will not seek an increase in their operating fund, which pays for, among other things, staffing and salaries.
"The board is being very conservative," Hill said, "and wants to focus entirely on the building."
Many of the necessary repairs are behind the scenes, she said, and not immediately obvious to patrons.
"Things look good, but they're really not good," she said.
The project also would focus on making the facility more welcoming as a community gathering place.
"Books are not going away and print is not going away," Hill said, "but people also are using the library for different reasons. We're trying to expand that base for our community."
If voters give the OK on April 4, officials say the building design process would begin the next day and likely take six months. Based on that timetable, construction contracts would be awarded toward the end of December 2017. The building addition would be finished in June 2018 and renovations to the existing library would be completed in February 2019. The entire project would be finished by March 2019.
The bulk of the library would remain open through most of the project. If it must close for any significant period, Hill said officials will ask peers in Elmhurst, Addison and Lombard for help to provide services.
If voters reject the proposed tax increase, officials say they'll have to re-evaluate their building needs and likely raise the money for the most pressing repairs by reducing hours, materials and services.
But that, Hill said, would only be a Band-Aid approach that would not fully address the library's building needs.
"We'll have to regroup," she said. "The need is not going to go away."
The library has scheduled community meetings to explain the referendum proposal at 10 a.m. Jan. 16, 7 p.m. Feb. 8, 1:30 p.m. March 9 and 10 a.m. March 18. Information also is available by clicking on "Building Project" on the website at vppl.info.
Hill says the success of the proposal will depend largely on how well the library makes its case to voters.
"Our responsibility is to get out and educate," she said.