Evanston Public Library votes to maintain property tax levy for upcoming fiscal year


File photo by Joanne Haner

Evanston Public Library’s Board of Trustees voted to maintain its property tax levy at a meeting Wednesday.

Katrina Pham, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Public Library’s Board of Trustees voted to maintain the library’s operating property tax levy at its Wednesday meeting. If City Council approves the levy Monday, residents will not pay additional property taxes to fund the library.

Trustees voted on two resolutions: one where the operating property tax levy remained the same at 7.25 million dollars and one where the operating property tax levy increased to 7.4 million dollars. 

They also debated whether increasing the levy would benefit the library and the community, or whether the increase would not be worth the additional pressure on residents’ wallets.  

Board members voted 5 to 4 to reject the resolution that would increase the property tax levy. They then unanimously voted to adopt a resolution to maintain the library’s current tax levy. 

“This 2% (increase), it’s very easy for us to see it as a nominal amount of money,” Tracy Fulce, EPL president, said. “But not everyone experiences that 2% in the same way.”

Lower-income residents shoulder disproportionate property tax burdens compared with higher-income residents nationwide, according to a March 2021 study from the University of Chicago. And decreasing affordability has pushed people of color out of Evanston at rapid rates in recent decades. Fulce said she doesn’t want to exacerbate that force. 

The proposed tax levy increase would have accounted for an additional 0.35% of the library’s budget. With this increase, EPL treasurer Benjamin Schapiro said the library would have greater options to fund library initiatives and programs, including efforts to establish a library in the 5th Ward. 

“Where we don’t fund, we cut — we cut something that serves the community,” Schapiro said. “When we levy for this, we’re not asking the community to sacrifice for the library, they are paying for services. They’re paying for a public good.”

But some trustees raised concerns about whether the decision would significantly increase services to the community. Fulce said not all community members will feel the impact of changes to library services. Some trustees said the increased funding likely wouldn’t be enough to establish a 5th Ward library, among other equity initiatives. 

“There are lots of taxpayers in town who don’t get to use the services or historically have not had access to the services in the same way,” Fulce said. “To frame it as we now need to pay more so that people who were historically underserved or marginalized can get access — that doesn’t feel right to me.”

Trustee Esther Wallen and vice president Rachel Hayman raised concerns about increasing taxes on residents following the pandemic, which has caused job losses and financial hardship for many community members. 

Wallen said although the library may increase taxes in the future, it should not implement a tax increase for the 2022 budget. 

“I just feel like now is not the right time,” Wallen said. “We hear and recognize the disparities, and we’re going to acknowledge that and take that under consideration.”

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Twitter: @KatrinaPham_


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