Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twice in 84 Years...

One comment that has surfaced about this referendum deals with the issue of higher taxes and how "they keep raising our taxes." "They" are certainly not the Library!

The Plainfield Public Library District has, since its inception in 1925 as the Village Library, passed a tax rate increase exactly once.

Yes, you read that right. Once. The 1990 building bond referendum that will be paid off in 2010, reducing the Library's tax rate, is the only tax rate increase in the Library's history.

How is that possible? It's all about the generosity of three families.

In 1925, Ebanezer & Celeste Nimmons left a $25,000 estate to either the Village of Plainfield or to Plainfield Township for the establishment of a tax supported public library. Later that year, voters approved the creation of the tax-supported Nimmons Village of Plainfield Free Public Library.

In 1940, George and Marietta McClester willed the Village Library their charitable remainder trust to "erect a public library in this City." The McClester-Nimmons Village of Plainfield Free Public Library opened its doors to the public on June 1, 1941. That name can still be seen on the headstone over the former entrance to the library.

In 1954, the Village Library became the sole beneficiary of Fannie Stratton's 160-acre farm. Proceeds from the sale of crops (corn and soybeans) were used to supplement the Library's operating budget. The farm remained a source of operating revenue for the library for 34 years.

In 1988, the Stratton farm was sold at public auction for $1.5 million.

After an unsuccessful referendum for a $3 million in building bond in 1989, the Library Board reduced the 1990 referendum to a $1.9 million building bond, using nearly $1 million of the farm sale proceeds to supplement that amount.

The remainder of the farm sale proceeds, along with developer donations, funded the completion of the Library's lower level in 1996.

It is by the generosity of the Nimmons, McClester, and Stratton families that the Library was able to operate for 84 years with only a single tax rate increase.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Need more information? Opportunities to ask questions?

The Board of Trustees and staff will be available to answer your questions about the referendum at an information table in the lower level elevator lobby of the Library at the following times:

6-8pm on Thursday, March 19
6-7:30pm on Tuesday, March 24
6-8:30pm on Wednesday, April 1
1-4pm on Saturday, April 4

Architectural renderings of the proposed expansion, downtown Library's exterior go on display Monday, February 23 and remain throughout the next six weeks. Informational brochures and bookmarks will be available at those displays and throughout the Library.

For a sneak preview of the drawings, check out the link on the right hand side of this page!

Informational presentations will also be made at the District 202 School Board meeting on Monday, February 23, the Kiwanis Club meeting on February 25, Central Elementary PTO on March 3, All Our Kids on March 4, MainStreet Plainfield Board on March 9, the Library Foundation Board on March 10, the Jaycees on March 10, the Plainfield Park District Board on March 11, and the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon March 18. More presentations may be scheduled.

On Saturday, March 28, the Library will also have a display and informational table at the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce Expo.

I hope to see you at a presentation or information table and answer any questions you may have!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thank You, Village Board!

Just a quick thanks to the Village of Plainfield's Board for passing a resolution in support of the library's expansion referendum. The participation of the Mayor and Village staff on the development of the plan was invaluable.

When the Library, Village and other government entities work together, we ensure our taxpayers receive the best services possible for each dollar spent. Our mutual constituency benefits from our positive working relationships and commitment to community service.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Host an Informational Presentation Today!

I have done the first informational presentations for about the Library's expansion plan. As a librarian, making sure people have good information in a timely fashion is what I do! I enjoy answering people's questions about the plan, how it was developed and what it contains.

Would your group be interested in an informational presentation? Call to schedule one with me at 815-439-2874! Presentations can be tailored to fit your group's needs.

To date, I have spoken to the Village Board, Plainfield School District 202 staff, Plainfield Soccer Association Board, Representative Tom Cross, and Plainfield Park District staff. I am scheduled to speak at future School Board and Park Board meetings, an upcoming Kiwanis Club meeting, AOK and Jaycees. Presentation dates and times are pending with other groups including some PTOs, other community organizations and elected officials, and to tape a presentation for Plainfield Television, cable channel 6. The Library will participate in the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce's Expo in March.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

About the polls conducted by the Library

First of all, I want to thank the gentleman that left this comment. I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions and address concerns. As a librarian, giving good information in a timely fashion is what I do!

Here was the comment:
"It's one thing that ask if the Libary Expansion should go on ballot but another to vote in favor of the tax increase. These are separate questions that should be asked in all your polling. If you can not get above 50% on the poll to vote in favor there is no sense to have this on the ballot - because it will fail. I would rather not to have the north branch and concentrate solely on the expansion of the downtown facility."

Unfortunately, the Library cannot use taxpayer dollars on a poll that asks directly for support on a ballot measure. The Board considered exactly that poll and were advised by legal counsel that they could not ask that question. The poll question used was the best information they could get using taxpayer money to determine if it was still appropriate to proceed with placing the question on the ballot in April.

The downtown facility's size is constrained by site and zoning. 70,000 sq ft of library space is the maximum facility size. But that would only meet today's need, with no space for any future growth. The proposed north side branch allows for growth for 12-15 years.

Because libraries generally build about once every 20 years (not only is that the "life expectancy" of a public building, it is also the standard length of municipal bonds), that planning horizon (2010-2030) was the focus of the planning process over the last 2 1/2 years. The Board of Trustees scaled back the plan from the 134,000 sq ft needed by 2030 to the 100,000 sq ft total included in the expansion plan today. Their goal in this was to balance today's need and future growth in an affordable plan.

Leave comments. Ask questions. I will respond.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Why is this question different?

One online comment about a recent news article on the Plainfield Public Library referendum said: "New Lenox built this great big ridiculous library, state of the art facility. A year later they were trying to get a referendum passed to pay the bills! They couldn't afford to run it!"

I'd like to respond to how the Plainfield Library's expansion plan will prevent what happened at New Lenox from happening here.

This is, unfortunately, not uncommon to libraries in Illinois. Bonds referenda pass, while the operating rate for that same project does not. It happened right here in Plainfield in the early 90's. The building bond passed in 1990. At the time, the Board of Trustees chose to wait until the new building opened to place the operating rate referendum on the ballot. The operating rate failed in 1993. The Library could no longer operate the larger building on the same budget. The Library's hours were reduced, staff laid off, and book budget frozen. Only the beginning of the population explosion relieved the operating fund deficit for the library.

With that lesson, reinforced by the New Lenox's situation, the current Board of Trustees placed both construction and operations in a single ballot question. Using a different type of bonds for the project (Alternate Revenue Bonds) allows for the single question. However, the question itself is confusing. Here is the text:

Shall the limiting rate under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for the Plainfield Public Library District, Will and Kendall Counties, Illinois, be increased by an additional amount equal to .1926% above the limiting rate for levy year 2007 and be equal to .3301% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein for levy year 2009?

(1) The approximate amount of taxes extendable at the most recently extended limiting rate is $2,894,350, and the approximate amount of taxes extendable if the proposition is approved is $6,948,545.
(2) For the 2009 levy year the approximate amount of the additional tax extendable against property containing a single family residence and having a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $64.20.
(3) If the proposition is approved, the aggregate extension for 2009 will be determined by the limiting rate set forth in the proposition, rather than the otherwise applicable limiting rate calculated under the provisions of the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (commonly known as the Property Tax Cap Law).

What the heck does that mean? Why do you not even find the name of the library until the second line? Well, because Illinois law dictates the wording of the question. The Library fills in the blanks, with no room for clarification. The Library Board and staff are working get information out to the community to ensure that you understand the question as it will appear on the ballot - because it does not tell you "building AND operations". It does not say "quadruple the space, double the services, books, and staff, and room to grow for 12-15 years." It says a bunch of legalese about the "Property Tax Extension Limitation Law." Heck, #3 basically says if it passes the Library gets the money just as the requested. How redundant is that?

The short version of what the Library is asking: "May the Plainfield Library collect a tax rate that will both build and operate expanded facilities that will meet the needs of today with room to grow for 12-15 years?"