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?"