Des Plaines Library seeks loan from city

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Des Plaines Public Library might need to borrow up to $1.5 million from the city to remain open through the end of the year if Cook County property tax receipts don't come in on time, officials said.

The library board has sent the request to Des Plaines acting City Manager Jason Slowinski, and city council members are expected to discuss it at a future meeting. Since the municipal library is not a separate taxing body, the city would have to authorize and cosign for the $1.5 million bank loan.

"We don't have the legal authority to enter into a loan agreement with the bank because any debt we incur will actually be the city's debt," Library Director Holly Sorensen said.

Sorensen said Cook County property tax disbursements have historically been late so it's no surprise the library is short on cash this time of year. The library currently has about $1.7 million on hand, or about 2½ months operating expenses.

"It's about a little over $3 million we're waiting for," Sorensen said. "If the payment comes sometime in early December, we will probably be fine. But if it comes in January of next year then we need some money to get us over."

In previous years, the city covered any shortfalls in property taxes to the library since their accounting was done together. This year, however, the library decided to outsource its legal, human resources, financial and media services.

"If the tax money does not come through and if we do not get the loan, there is a good possibility we will have to close part of the time in December," said George Magerl, library board president.

Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said the library will have to justify the loan request to the city council and "if they've made cuts to show that they truly deserve the city's backing on this issue."

"We froze our department heads' salaries. We've made cuts to staff. And the library until this year has not done that," Moylan added. "They have raised residents' taxes approximately 7.4 percent for the last 10 years. We encourage them to be responsible with the taxpayers' money."

Library officials are holding off on planned improvements this year such as upgrading restrooms and reconfiguring the library's fourth floor to make space for additional computers and move the help desk to a central location.

"We stopped buying materials so we haven't bought books, DVDs or music since August," Sorensen said.

Officials hope to build up the library's fund balance in future years so it is not hamstrung by delays in property tax receipts.

The library is requesting $6.5 million from the city for its operations in 2011, similar to its 2010 budget. The proposed 2011 budget includes roughly $625,000 in cuts to personnel and other expenses.

"We're eliminating a total of 10 positions eight full-time and two part time across all departments," Sorensen said. "There will be no raises for the 2011 calendar year. We are going to increase the contributions that the employees pay for medical premiums."

Library employees also will be required to take one furlough day next year. To accommodate that, the library will be closed the day after Thanksgiving 2011.