Monday, March 08, 2010

Library Board Upset with the Council for cutting Taxes

Last year the Library brought their budget to the City Council for review and passage. Just like several of the past 16 budgets that I have been part of, the City Council attempted to work out a smaller increase than was requested. In all those past years we have struck a deal with the Library board in the spirit of cooperation and in the best interests of the citizens. This year however seems like things have dramatically changed.

While I was not involved in many of the direct discussions that took place with the Library, we were told by them that the Library was its own government and we needed to pass the much larger increase in the levy.

What we had asked the Library to do in these down economic times is to follow what the rest of our city government has done and have ZERO increases in their budget outside of mandatory IMRF pension requirements..... They refused and demanded their increases be levied upon the citizens of Highland Park through higher property taxes.

We asked the Library Board to work with our staff on creating administrative efficiencies by combining staff duplication of services, bidding together on insurance, and taking advantage of other opportunities to save money.

I truly believe the Library boards in the past and the present have done an excellent job on providing a fine establishment for education, leisure, and entertainment. The Library is a sanctuary for many that do enjoy its immense resources and peaceful atmosphere. It is a prime cultural pillar of our community and all of us on the City Council recognize its importance and have always stood behind its preservation as a great benefiting institution in our community.

Now, as far as who makes the final decision in how much money is spent and who governs our Library? It is our citizens. The way that our citizens effectuate this policy is to elect 7 members to the City Council of Highland Park. The citizens entrust the seven of us to govern this City Government, including the Library, for four year terms. We, the City Council of Highland Park, are the ones that are empowered by the citizens to make the final decisions.

The Mayor recommends and the City Council approves citizens to serve on the Library board to over see operations and programming of the Library. The Library board is required to submit its levy (property tax request) to the City Council for approval. The Library Board serves at our pleasure and is accountable to us on the City Council.

While this conflict between the City Council and the Library board has never erupted in the past, it has always been clear to me where the authority lies. This Councilman will not give any department or recommending body a BLANK CHECK when it comes to property taxes that our citizens have no choice on paying.

I am hopeful that the current library board will retreat from this unsustainable aggressive posture and work with us as the boards have done in the past. The City Council will not let anything happen that will jeopardize the Library's mission to serve our community and will do all that it takes to preserve civility and cooperation between the city and our library.