Referendum roundup: Vote for $22 million Roselle library still too close to call

Roselle Public Library officials remain in limbo after an election night cliffhanger: The difference between approval and rejection of a tax increase request is a mere 55 votes.

The library board sought approval from voters to borrow $22 million to pay for a new and larger building designed to help anchor a revitalized Main Street area.

Unofficial referendum results in DuPage and Cook counties showed the measure received 1,433 "no" votes versus 1,378 "yes" votes.

County election authorities are still counting mail-in ballots that must be returned within two weeks of Election Day - no later than April 18 - to be included in the final results.

Executive Director Samantha Johnson is optimistic the library district can make up the difference as vote-by-mail ballots are tabulated.

"I feel like I have to be," Johnson said Wednesday. "We put a lot of heart and hope in this."

If anything, she hopes to see the gap between "no" and "yes" shrink so that library trustees might have a "clearer way forward."

"If the design just was not enough, maybe that's something that they can look at and re-envision a little bit and then try again," Johnson said.

The board wanted to borrow the money to build a new library campus with more green space. The current building dates to 1982 and needs a new roof as well as extensive repairs, officials said. The last significant remodel was done in the 1990s.

"We, for a long time, have dealt with water infiltration issues," Johnson said.

The youth department is housed on the second floor, meaning families with strollers have to rely on an elevator built with the 27,000-square-foot building.

"So much of what we have is original and is feeling and showing its age," Johnson said.

The new, 32,250-square-foot building also would ease a space crunch. Youth services would be on the first floor, right off a more accessible entrance. The library would be able to add a second-floor teen department. Currently, teens have no library space to call their own.

Another key feature: Patrons on the go could use a drive-up window on the north side of the building to pick up and drop off materials.

"The board was very adamant that it would be open, have a lot of natural light, be different," Johnson said. "We did throughout the process hear questions and complaints that the design didn't match any longer with the red brick that is really popular among our neighboring municipal buildings. And that was the point. We're not under the village. We serve the community so differently."

If the measure ultimately passes, the owner of a $267,000 home - the median value in the district - would pay approximately $180 more in annual property taxes to cover the cost.

While a group supporting the tax increase, Neighbors for a Better Roselle, had mobilized, library leaders also faced a tax-weary electorate.

"It's a big ask," Johnson said. "We knew that the anti-additional tax vote would be coming out."

U-46 construction projects

Voters have given Elgin Area Unit District 46 permission to borrow $179 million to rebuild aging schools.

The ballot measure from the state's second-largest school district received 10,523 yes votes and 6,346 no votes, according to unofficial counts.

U-46 plans to replace Lowrie and McKinley schools in Elgin, both of which were built in the 1800s. It also proposes rebuilding Century Oaks in Elgin, Parkwood in Hanover Park and Glenbrook in Streamwood. They were built in the 1970s.

The overall construction program is estimated to cost $300 million, but the district says it will use money it has in reserve to cover the rest of the cost. Because the district is replacing old debt with new debt, the new loan will not result in a property tax increase, officials said.

"This was a unique opportunity," said U-46 Chief of Staff Brian Lindholm, adding that the ability to present a bond request without a tax rate increase likely contributed to voter support.

In addition to new buildings, the building program will help the district transition to a full middle school model after a planned conversion of Hawk Hollow Elementary School into a middle school is complete. Currently, sixth-grade students attend elementary schools. The district plans to move sixth-grade students to middle schools within the next two years.

While the main focus is on replacing five elementary schools, the district plans to earmark an additional $10 million per year over the next 10 years to make improvements to the district's other schools. In all, U-46 has 57 buildings.

• Daily Herald staff writer Alicia Fabbre contributed to this report

An architectural rendering by Product Architecture + Design shows the proposed Roselle Public Library youth services area. Courtesy of Product Architecture + Design
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