Taxpayers on the Hook for Library Grant

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Floor plans for the new Sandwich Libray
Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre
Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre

The news didn’t come as a surprise. It turns out the DeKalb Public Library might not get all of the grant money they were promised for their expansion.

Dee Coover told the city council that the library is collateral damage of the budget empasse between Gov. Rauner and Speaker Mike Madigan. The state had approved an $11.6 million construction grant. But the final $4.6 million of the grant is being held up at least until a budget is approved.

So at the last minute of the property tax levy process the library has levied an additional $500,000 to be added to next year’s tax bill. Those burdened with the taxing unit by taxing unit increases probably feel it is they who are collateral damage.

The library says they will abate the increase maybe as soon as January if the budget gets passed and the money that is rightfully theirs is released. The construction project is all but complete so there is no choice but to pay the contractors.

Just how much of an increase in property tax is yet to be finalized. For the homeowner with a $150,000 home value it is estimated that an extra $56 would go on top of the city’s proposed increase of $88.

The city council would do well to demand an intergovernmental agreement that removes any wiggle room from the promised abatement if the grant money is released. If is the key word considering the state’s financial woes.

In 2012 library officials in Aurora pledged to put all of $10.8 million in state grant money toward decreasing the size of a loan their city would take out for their project. But later when all grant money was collected they determined the final $3.2 million chunk of the state grant would go toward other costs. Fortunately for Aurora taxpayers their aldermen held the library’s feet to the fire and did not allow them to break their original promise. The council had to threaten the library with not funding the project. DeKalb does not have that same leverage.

Get it in writing.

Once again there was debate on whether or not the city council has any choice but to approve the library’s tax levy. Once again the city attorney sided with the library. Former alderman Ron Naylor was in the audience. He and others including Dave Baker voted against the library’s levy when the former DeKalb Clinic building was the site selection. That levy was decided in closed session unknown at the time by the city council.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

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