Letter: Library board must do right thing with funds

To the Editor:

The DeKalb Public Library Board of Trustees held a special meeting Jan. 24 to discuss what to do with state construction grant money that has finally been released to library now that Illinois has a budget again. The library has received all but $1.1 million of final installments totaling $4.5 million.

If you happen to remember the terrible fix that the library was in two years ago, the topic of the meeting was dismaying. There should be no debate about what to do with the grant money.

In late 2015, the funding delay threatened to shut down construction on the library expansion, and library board came to City Council with a proposal to temporarily raise its property tax levy by $500,000 in order to secure a loan until the rest of the grant was re-appropriated and released.

During the Dec. 14, 2015, City Council meeting, library representatives presented a resolution and read a statement from the board promising that the levy was only temporary, that it would only be used for the loan (i.e., not for operations), and that the full amount paid by city of DeKalb residents would be rebated.

There is one legitimate path for the library board to take, and that is full rebate of taxes already paid, abatement of 2017 taxes, and lowering the levy back to its pre-crisis amount. Yet it was quite apparent from the special meeting that the trustees favor keeping the levy, and rebating only a portion of the taxes paid.

And if such casual disregard of promises weren’t offensive enough, the meeting was doubly a farce for its playacting. Board President Wendell Johnson called upon a member of the audience, who turned out to be the project manager of the expansion, for “help” in recalling what the board had intended and promised two years ago. But Johnson and three other members of the current library board were also trustees in 2015.

Therefore, barring some sort of infirmity, they should all remember it quite well themselves.

What happens next will show their character. The library board is expected to take action at its Feb. 14 regular meeting.

Watch video of library’s 2015 promises at youtube.com/watch?v=sI6iiHSbaM0, and the Jan. 24 special meeting at youtube.com/watch?v=OD_ZVE2eZKw.

Lynn Fazekas