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DeKalb library to ask city for $7.5M

DeKALB – DeKalb Public Library officials will ask DeKalb city leaders Monday to borrow $7.5 million to help pay for a library expansion that would more than triple the library’s size.

Library Director Dee Coover, board President Clark Neher and architects from Nagel Hartray Architecture – a Chicago-based firm tasked with designing the new library – will tell the council why they think the city should help pay for the $24 million project.

If the council decides to issue bonds, residents would see the library’s property tax rate increase by 8 cents, from 30 cents per $100 in equalized assessed value to 38 cents, said Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu.

The increase would cost the owner of a home with a $150,000 assessed value who claims the homeowner’s exemption about $40 more in annual property taxes.

“They have a good story to tell. This is only one-third of the cost,” Espiritu said. “In some communities, sometimes the whole cost is on property taxes.”

The library is a component of the city – meaning the City Council will have the final say on any borrowing proposal. The presentation is being heard in the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, meaning final action will not occur Monday.

General obligation bonds are just one-third of the financial plan for the library expansion.

Another third would come mostly from private donations. Espiritu said the library will pitch in $1 million from its own fund, and another $1 million to pay for improvements on Third Street will come from the city’s Central Area tax increment financing district. Another $6 million will come from private donors.

The last third is an $8.5 million Illinois Public Library Construction Grant. But the library board needs to show the state that it can follow through on the construction. By June 1, the other two-thirds of the cost – or $15.5 million – must to be raised, Espiritu said.

Library officials, including Neher, have repeatedly emphasized that the library needs more space.

“It’s a building that’s not able to hold the kind of holdings and programs that we have,” Neher said, adding that they have to remove a book for every new one taken in.

If everything goes according to plan, the 19,000-square-foot building that was built in 1931 will get a three-story expansion that would stretch west across Third Street, adding 48,000 square feet to the building. The library, formally known as the Haish Memorial Library, has not been expanded in 40 years.

Neher described the borrowing proposal, and the subsequent property tax increase, as being small when considering that the city did not pay for the library’s original construction.

“We have worked to do all we can to make sure that amount is small for the taxpayer and the citizens of DeKalb,” Neher said.

The current building is also in need of repair. Neher highlighted the building’s roof, heating and air conditioning system, and boiler rooms as being areas of concern.

He also pointed to the building’s inability to conform to regulations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. People in wheelchairs have to exit the building to go from the first floor to the library’s lower levels. There is no elevator to take them to the second or third floors, Neher said.

Coover was not available for comment Wednesday.

By the numbers
Here is how DeKalb library leaders are proposing paying for a $24 million expansion:
• $8.5 million in Illinois Public Library Construction Grant
• $7.5 million in bonds the city could issue
• $6 million in private donations
• $1 million from DeKalb's Central Area tax increment financing district fund
• $1 million from the DeKalb Public Library's fund reserves

If you go

What: DeKalb City Council Meeting

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. 4th St., DeKalb

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