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Officials reduce DeKalb library expansion funding plan by $4 million

DeKALB – City and library officials are trying to reduce the cost – but not the size – of the DeKalb Public Library’s planned expansion so they can secure an $8.5 million state grant.

Officials want to reduce the initial project costs from $24 million to $20 million by putting off renovations to the existing library space. Library board President Clark Neher said state officials have no issue with cutting costs, so long as the expanded library did not change in size.

“We don’t want people to think we’re losing $4 million of the library,” Neher said. “It will be phased-in, but it will not be added on in this initial sequence.”

Since December, library officials have been trying to raise $15.5 million as the local match for an $8.5 million state construction grant. To remain eligible for the state grant, they need to have the local match, which they want to reduce to $11.5 million, in June.

Construction on the 47,000-square foot addition to the 80-year-old building at 309 Oak St. would start within 140 days of library officials signing the contract with the state.

Officials are hoping to shave $4 million off the project cost and reduce their private donation goal from $6 million to $2 million.

They intend to borrow the $2 million from a bank and pay it off as the private donations roll in over three years. The rest of the local match would come from library reserves, the city’s tax increment financing district funds, and a city bond issue repaid through property taxes.

If the fundraising were to fall short, the loan payments would come from the library’s operating fund, Library Director Dee Coover said.

“The loans will not be an additional tax burden,” Coover said.

Coover said they will hold off on renovations to the old library – such as flooring restoration or the inclusion of a skylight – until private donations come in to pay for them.

Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu said city officials and the public were concerned about the library being able to raise $6 million in such a short time frame. Neher said it was a concern as well, one that is eliminated now that the goal is $2 million.

The library is within the city’s corporate authority, which is why it had to petition the city to borrow money to help pay for the expansion. The city had been asked to finance $7.5 million, which the library would pay back through an 8-cent increase in property taxes.

But because interest rates have risen, Espiritu said, borrowing $7.5 million will result in a 9.3-cent increase in the library’s property tax rate. To keep it at an 8-cent increase, DeKalb aldermen will consider borrowing $6.5 million and allocating $2 million, rather than $1 million, to the library from the city’s tax increment financing district.

The bond ordinance that will be in front of aldermen Monday night allows them to borrow up to $7.96 million, which would pay for the original $7.5 million as well as any additional borrowing costs. Espiritu said this cap would keep their options open.

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