July 24--DIXON -- The Dixon Public Library is asking the city for help with about $1.5 million in building repairs.
During the City Council meeting Monday night, Library Board member Glen Hughes asked the city, on behalf of the library, for a loan of up to $1.2 million. The library would pay the city back $100,000 a year for 12 years.
"The board has had some funds, through gifts to the library, that we have been trying to utilize to Band-Aid and patch ongoing deferred maintenance problems," Hughes said. "The funds have not been there for the capital improvements for a variety of reasons."
The library would pay about $300,000 toward the cost of the work, which includes repairs to the roof, boiler, windows and possible asbestos removal, among other possible needs. The $1.2 million loan would be "repaid" to the city with a proposed increase in the library's share of the city tax rate, from 17 cents for every $100 in assessed value to 25 cents.
Because the library's tax levy is administered through the city, Dixon would be, in essence, lending money to itself.
The Library Board would be interested in keeping its share of the tax rate at 25 cents after the 12 years so a capital improvements fund could be built up, Hughes said.
If the loan is approved -- it will be on the Aug. 4 council agenda for a vote -- the city will shift the money from its general fund to the library. The only cost to the city would be the interest it could have earned on the $1.2 million.
Essentially, money from the general fund would go to the library fund; taxpayers would see no increase. The city has enjoyed some budgetary flexibility as a result of a $40 million recovery in the wake of the Rita Crundwell scandal.
"The library is getting to a critical point, at this time," Hughes said. "We are at a point where the patch work is not helping. We're having problems."
In the past 4 years, the library has done work to address repairs to gutters and drainage, he said, but the roof contines to leak.
During one of the city's budget workshops this year, Library Director Lynn Roe told the council that repairs for the library were needed.
At the time, Roe said leaks had caused water damage, and the repairs that had been done were being paid for with donations and gifts to the library, which doesn't have a maintenance fund.
Members of the Library Board and City Council have met recently to discuss the loan and the repairs. City Administrator David Nord and Finance Director Paula Meyer attended the Library Board meeting in June to discuss the issue.
On Monday, Mayor Jim Burke said for some reason governments tend to let their buildings and infrastructure deteriorate until repairs are absolutely necessary.
"If you had to choose and break this thing up into some kind of segments, it looked to me like you might as well put each one of these segments up on a dart board and throw a dart it," he said. "It looked to me like every one of these things is as critical as another."
Commissioner Colleen Brechon, who complimented the Library Board for trying to save a historic building (the original section is 113 years old), asked how a no-interest loan to the library would work.
The city routinely gives money to Dixon Tourism or the Dixon Municipal Band or other organizations beyond the established tax levy. Those funds usually aren't repaid to the city.
Commissioner Dave Blackburn said this possible loan to the library is a better deal for the city. Blackburn also said because his daughter used to work for the library, he wouldn't vote on the issue. His only role in the discussion Monday night was to explain how finances might work.
"I guess we can look at it, too, from another perspective," Blackburn said. "Midland States Bank just allowed us to repay a loan back [and,] we probably saved $3.5 million or $4 million in interest by their generosity. So I don't think this will be out of the realm of what we could do."
In November, Midland States Bank and Sauk Valley Bank allowed the city to pay the balance on three bonds that weren't scheduled to be paid off until 2018, 2020 and 2021.
About the library
The roots of the Dixon Public Library reach back to 1872, when the Dixon Hose Company firefighters started a small subscription library. It became a city library in 1895-96.
In 1899, O. B. Dodge, the first library board president, built a new building that opened in early 1901. It was remodeled in 1955, when the apartment occupied by the library custodian was converted to the children's department, then an addition, which changed the library to its present layout, was opened in 1969. The elevator was added in 1986, and the building was refurbished in 1994.
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