River Forest library seeks $457K bond from village

? Village-funded bond sale would allow library to avoid asking voters for a referendum.

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The River Forest village board Monday night agreed to continue discussions with the River Forest Library Board on the issuance of $457K in limited tax bonds.

River Forest Library Board President Mary Katherine Ryan stood to address the board, saying she was beginning what she hoped would be a "conversation" with board members over the library's fiscal needs over the next five years. That conversation, said Ryan, will focus on a funding plan to address serious fiscal issues facing the library.

The library board met last Saturday to finalize its fiscal year 2005-06 budget.

Saying that she and the library board want the River Forest Library to "be one of the primary reasons people want to live in River Forest," Ryan noted the two main reasons why, in fact, that's not currently the case.

Those are, she said, tax caps that constrain the district's ability to raise capital, and the fact that a majority of residents aren't currently active users of the library's services.

"They don't perceive the value," said Ryan.

That, she said, must change first, if the system has any chance of ultimately launching a successful referendum campaign in the next several years.

In effect, Ryan and the library board asked the village board for some help with their shoe before putting their best foot forward. To that end, the library board is seeking permission from the village board to use $457,000 of the village's limited tax bond authorization to fund a variety of essential capital improvements in their building.

The library board, Ryan said, did not feel ready to utilize the other funding mechanism available to them, a referendum for an operational levy increase. That opinion stems from a survey of village residents last year that made it clear that only a minority of residents are satisfied library patrons.

Ryan stressed that much has been improved in the past six months under new Library Director Dawn Bussey, but that much remains to be done.

The bond revenue would allow the library to upgrade its staff and customer service while simultaneously addressing some serious capital improvement needs.

Among those improvements would be a revitalized book collection that Ryan called, "frankly, in desperate condition." A recent consultant's study determined that some 30 percent of the library's books had not been circulated by patrons for five years."

Other agenda items are establishing remote access to the libraries information systems and upgrades of computer software and hardware that haven't been updated since 1998.

"The value of the library to the village will be enhanced once we meet those goals," she said.

Library Board Vice President Mark Coe then addressed the proposed operational and capital improvements and their costs.

Capital improvements, said Coe, have been deferred for as long as 10 years. Those include repairs to the heating and air conditioning system, the library's slate and flat roofs, skylight repairs, landscaping, renovating the children's library, and a new phone system.

"A lot of this stuff has been deferred," Coe noted, adding that by doing several projects at once, they could take advantage of economies of scale.

Questioned by Trustee Al Swanson, Coe acknowledged the $457,000 price tag. Acquiring the bond funding, he said, would allow the board to use its regular tax levy funds for upgrades in its operational budget.

"That puts us in a position to not have to go to [the voters] for a referendum until the '09-10 budget year," Coe said.

The village board will discuss the library's request at its March 7 finance meeting, then will invite the library back for further discussion.

? The board also unanimously approved the hiring of a second full-time housing inspector. Village administrator Chuck
Biondo told the trustees that the village
currently has one full-time inspector, as well as one part-timer and an vacant
intern position. The new inspector, he said,
would be cross-trained in a variety
of inspection tasks, as well as becoming
qualified to assist with fire safety

When President Frank Paris noted that housing permit fees have risen from $10,000 to $400,000 over the years, Village Clerk Patrick Hosty added, "This is the kind of cost that can be passed on."

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