City Council approves Evanston Public Library property tax levy

Rebecca Savransky, Managing Editor

Aldermen voted Monday night to increase residents’ annual property tax to benefit the Evanston Public Library during a special City Council meeting, after previously delaying the vote to allow for more discussion on the issue.

The ordinance, which passed in a 7-to-2 vote with Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) and Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) dissenting, will raise the amount of tax funding the library can take from residents by about $800,000.

The ordinance for the library’s tax levy was introduced at a City Council meeting on Oct. 25. The requested levy will total more than $5.8 million, which exceeds EPL’s funding cap of $5 million.

Burrus, who opposed the tax, said that many people in the community do not have the money to afford the increase. She said that those who serve on the library board may not realize that some residents do not have sufficient funds and questioned why the library needed to raise the state statute limit.

“I believe that the library board is only concerned with the library and not taking into deliberations how the increase in taxes affects all other Evanstonians,” Burrus said.

Although the library is doing great work, Rainey said, they should not be asking for this large of an increase, noting there are other ways to generate additional taxes.

“You can say how wonderful it is to serve poor people, etc., but the very poor people you’re serving are going to get bit by the increase,” she said. “It’s wrong.”

After Burrus and Rainey stated their reasons for dissenting, Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) noted that the library’s programming benefits the community. Wilson, who supported the ordinance, said that this is an “appropriate expenditure.”

During public comment, several residents talked about the importance of the library in the community, noting that it provides vital services for the city. Many residents requested aldermen approve the tax increase to ensure the library can continue its programming.

Evanston resident Joan Hickman said library officials responded positively after she voiced concerns that the library only has programs geared toward black members of the community during February, which is African American History Month. The library launched a program called “11 Months of African American History” earlier this year. Those who work there have shown their commitment to the residents and the tax will help to continue this, she said.

EPL has also partnered with multiple organizations, including the Dajae Coleman Foundation and Youth Organizations Umbrella Inc., in addition to providing a space for groups to hold their programming.

Kristin James, the president of the Evanston/Skokie Council of Parent Teacher Association, emphasized the importance of the library and its programming to students in Evanston schools. In addition to sponsoring the special education resources fair, which looked to increase community, EPL has also provided a space to host diversity and inclusion programming, an initiative which has attracted more than 400 participants, James said.

“They have been phenomenal in supporting education and building community. They are seen as an advocate, a resource and a support to our school librarians and our parent groups,” she said. “This is a central location, a location that is safe for all of our parents and our children in the Evanston community.”

James emphasized that at this time, the library’s programs are essential to the community.

“Now is the time to support the public library,” she said.

Aldermen also approved a permit for Domino’s Pizza, which plans to open in Evanston, in an 8-to-1 vote.

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