In September 2023, the Evanston Public Library Board proposed a 9.0 percent increase in the property tax levy to support the library’s operations. Here, we have compiled some frequently asked questions about the proposed increase and what it will mean for residents.
How much will my taxes go up?
Less than 3% of your total property tax bill funds the library. For a $400,000 home with a total tax bill of $10,615*, just $280 goes to providing everything the library offers, including access to the library’s collection of more than a million titles and the hundreds of free programs the library offers every year. The approximate increase for this median property tax bill would be about $25.
Why is the library increasing taxes?
In 2023, the City negotiated a new contract with AFSCME, the union that represents many city employees, including about 80% of our library staff. That contract included a 20% pay increase over four years (11% immediately and 3% in subsequent years). Staffing costs are approximately 70% of the Library’s annual expenses, and unlike the City, the Library’s only significant revenue sources are taxes and philanthropy. To pay for salary increases, we must raise taxes.
Won’t the Library get funds from the Ryan Field deal?
No. The only kind of taxes the Library receives are property taxes, and the Ryan Field project would not pay property taxes. Any event-related tax revenue or revenue from permit fees would go to the City only, not the Library.
Does the Library raise taxes every year?
No. The Library held the tax levy flat for three years, before and during the pandemic. The Library increased its levy 3.9% last year to help defray cost-of-living increases for staff, many of whom had not seen a raise in several years, and increased costs for goods and services during a period of high inflation.
What is the library doing to keep taxes down?
Every year in our budgeting process and continually throughout the year, our staff seeks out ways to reduce costs as new technology and operational improvements help us work more efficiently.
We are also working to diversify our revenue sources. Our staff applies for grant funding throughout the year, and our development team works with Evanstonians and others who love our Library and make gifts to keep EPL funded. In 2022, philanthropy, including both grants and donations, accounted for 11% of the Library’s revenues.
Additionally, for a second year in a row, the Library Board will also use a portion of its reserve funds, essentially the Library’s rainy day account, to bridge the gap between increased costs and the increased revenue generated by property taxes. The Library Board, by policy, maintains 4-6 months of operating expenses in its reserve fund. Using reserve funds to balance the budget a second year in a row means the Library will no longer have at least 4 months of expenses saved in its reserve fund, and continuing to rely on these funds to fill budget gaps in future years is unsustainable.
Will any of my favorite programs be affected?
No, the Evanston Public Library will continue to bring you free programs and access to our collections throughout the year. We continually assess our programs and services to ensure that we are directing our resources to the best, most popular, and most impactful programs and services for our community, so while you may see a program or service conclude from time to time, the decision to end these services is not based solely on budget cuts.
How can I learn more?
The Library’s Truth in Taxation Hearing – which the Library holds annually regardless of increases in the name of transparency – will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. Visit epl.org beginning Monday, Oct. 16, for information regarding how to access the virtual public hearing and find instructions on how to present testimony to the taxing district.
What does the Library provide for Evanston residents?
The Evanston Public Library is a resource hub for our diverse community – our librarians and support staff increase literacy of all kinds through more than 1,000 programs every year for all ages from beloved story times to workshops that connect residents to critical resources from housing to healthcare.
You can find help with legal issues, get special perks at partner organizations around town, get help with your job search, find engaging STEM career exploration opportunities for teens, experience a Smithsonian exhibit, take action on climate change – and so much more! And that’s on top of our collection of books, eBooks, music, movies – and even laptops – available to borrow with your library card.
To learn more about everything happening at your library, visit epl.org, or sign up for our weekly newsletter.