Endorsement: Yes to Gail Borden Library tax rate proposal

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/1/2020 1:00 AM

At the same time voters approved borrowing $28 million in 2001 to build the new Gail Borden Library in downtown Elgin (and later the Rakow branch), they rejected a proposal to raise the operating tax rate to help offset increases in such things as heating, books, employees and all of the other things that make a library function.

It's not uncommon for voters to do this. Some Fox Valley library districts have gone back to voters year after year to help fund operations at their shiny new buildings.


The Gail Borden Library hasn't. But nearly 20 years later, faced with some big bills ahead, library leaders are asking again.

The last referendum that produced an operating rate increase was in 1989.

Now the district has a 17-year-old main library that will need a $700,000 parking lot revamp in a couple of years, improvements to its heating and cooling systems and other tech upgrades. The South Elgin branch, opened in 2016 with a grant, uses 4,000 square feet of the building's 15,000 square feet and the demand is there to build it out.

Leaders saw an opportunity with building bonds being paid off next year to leave the overall rate the same, basically trading the 8.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation that goes to paying off the bonds for an 8.8-cent increase in the operating rate. So instead of seeing a reduction in taxes, which would amount to about $55 for the owner of a $200,000 house, the overall tax rate would remain the same.

A third of the staff is not making the state-mandated $15-an-hour minimum wage, which would be phased in. The library already isn't filling jobs, and it's held off on making staffing decisions to accommodate big summer programs. It hasn't built the collection appreciably.

This tax increase will raise $2.6 million a year to keep one of Elgin's jewels operating the way it should. It is endorsed.

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