Board wants city to pay off library debt: $278,000 yearly

Board wants city to pay off library debt: $278,000 yearly

CHAMPAIGN — If the Champaign Public Library had to make significant budget cuts, Edison Middle School sixth-grader JaMya Bailey-Griffin worries she wouldn't be able to do her social studies homework.

She said she uses the library a lot to study and hang out with friends in the teen room. She recently found a book about Egypt she needed for research on a history project.

"It's a nice place, nice furniture, nice staff," JaMya said.

Library officials think they have a plan that would avoid a large budget deficit and the deep cuts they'd have to make to close it — they had toyed with the idea of cutting library hours, but that can be avoided with the proposal they will make to the city council next month.

The city would have to agree to take over nearly $300,000 annually in debt payments, and the library might have to take another look at the way it charges fees for meeting rooms. But if it means JaMya can visit when she needs to, she's for it.

Otherwise, "I wouldn't be able to get my homework done," she said.

Library board members are hoping city council members agree to take over the debt payments they will make every year until 2026 on the 6-year-old building. That's $278,811 this year, but the number is still lower than the $500,000 cash infusion the library needed in its current budget cycle to keep pace with its expenses.

If the city council says "no" next month, it will be back to the drawing board for library officials. And that likely would mean deeper cuts.

"I'm hopeful," said Library Director Marsha Grove.

Officials had considered reducing the number of hours the main and Douglass Branch libraries are open to the public, especially with a staff reduced by nearly 13 percent since 2009.

Library board members want to make the case that the library has accounted for nearly 25 percent of citywide staff reductions since the economic recession began, even though the library is about 5 percent of the city budget. Budgeters do not expect those positions will return very soon, at least into 2015.

The library is an arm of city government, but it operates largely independent of the city structure. Outside of approving its property tax levy and annual budget, the Feb. 25 city council meeting will be one of the few yearly interactions council members have with the library.

Library Board President Trisha Crowley said council members may not be keenly aware of the cuts the library has already made because they are not as involved with its day-to-day operations.

"This is the time to tell them that story," Crowley said.

With a green light from the city council next month, library officials likely would also start looking at revising rules for how the facility charges for use of meeting rooms. Right now, the library does not charge nonprofit organizations that use meeting space, but that practice might end next year.

The changes to meeting room fees would add a few thousand dollars to the revenue side, but the real numbers are on library debt payments. Right now, the city and the library share the $700,000 annual payment it owes on the debt it issued to pay for the Green Street building, which opened in 2008.

Library officials would ask that the entire amount be paid out of the city budget, not the library's. Essentially, that means the city would have to budget that much more out of its own revenue streams and it would free up money for the library to cover ever-rising personnel and other costs.

The conversation about the library will be in the context of how the city council wants to use an unallocated portion of the money from the new quarter-cent sales tax. The tax, which went into effect Jan. 1, is expected to bring in $2.8 million annually.

The city council had already decided how it wanted to use the money the city will get from that tax during the first half of 2014. Council members will revisit how they want to use the rest of the money on a recurring basis in the future, and the library will be part of that discussion.

University of Illinois doctoral students Alicia Kozma and Ergin Bulut said they use the Champaign Public Library more often than the UI library. It's a space that you know is open, Kozma said, and it would be hard if it reduced hours.

"I think the city can be more creative than cutting library hours if they're doing budget cuts," Bulut said.

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dalechampaign wrote on January 31, 2014 at 7:01 am

like any other business - trim hours - and staff - quit giving every excuse to keep losing money - the taxpayers are only going to take so much.  Next action - $1.00 per entry - per person.

acylum wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

Actually, when running a business, it makes no sense to make cuts that primarily affect your customers.  Cut hours only if those hours provide no customers.  When a business is losing money, and can't meet it's budget, you change management and bring in someone who can.  Fire the board and director and get people who have a history of fixing the type of problems that have been created.

Most every controversial decision make in the past 10 years at the library have been ones that have been negative for the patrons of the library.  This will continue with the idiot parade who control those decisions.

Save the library now by getting business-sense people in charge.

787 wrote on January 31, 2014 at 8:01 am

It would have been nice if the Library Board would have been intelligent enough to build a library that they could afford during a recession... and most people realized back then as to what was coming.

And then they had their little campaign to alienate everyone around them, including the (then) Lincoln Trail Library System.

But they built the library of their dreams, and now they want their short-sighted decisions to become the City's problems. 

I have an idea.  If there is anyone currently on the library board who was on the library board when that building was planned, they should resign immediately.  These people are part of today's problem.  It is proibably time for a new Director as well.

IrregularReader wrote on January 31, 2014 at 9:01 am

If you don't have enough money, cut hours. Open the Library 11-8. Give full-time staff an hour lunch. Use part-timers on the weekends. There. Done.

Honestly, using a little kid in a story like this? Boo Hoo. She needs the library to do her homework? No one is saying she can't use the library after school for heaven's sake. No one is saying cut the library hours and be open 10-2. Of course the library will be open after school. But close at 8. Open at 11. 

I am sick of taxes. The property tax is incredibly high. The sales tax we pay in Champaign County is crippling. I am buying a new car and am going to buy it out of Champaign County to save on taxes. There city leaders. That is only one of the consequences of your voting yes, yes, yes on every tax proposal put in front of you.

Sick of politicians, and sick of library directors crying because they don't have money. Suck it up. Taxpayers have to every day. You should to.

And News-Gazette -- using a little kid saying she needs the library to do her homework and somehow saying cutting library hours will affect her is ridiculous. It is nothing less than manipulation. 'We all better give the library more money or the poor kid will be out on the street. She won't have nice furniture and nice rooms and she wouldn't be able to get her homework done.' Oh, come on!

Champaign Guest wrote on January 31, 2014 at 10:01 am

As I read

the sales tax rate for cars in Champaign is just the state tax, so going out of the county to buy a car probably won't save you on taxes.  You might still save on the purchase price, though.

IrregularReader wrote on January 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

I have only been looking online and have limited my search to out-of-county dealers. So thanks for the information. I will look into it.

LocalTownie wrote on February 04, 2014 at 8:02 am

This library never should have been built when it was. Champaign obviously can't sustain it, we can all see that. Judging by this, I'd like to know why the school district thinks they can squeeze more cash out of taxpayers for a state of the art new high school but I guess that topic is for another time.

I attended Edison years ago and distinctly remember there being a library right there at the school. Can't kids do their research in the school? Does Edison not have a computer lab where students can use the web to complete homework? Once again this is just another biased article from the News Gazette, using a kid to push their agenda.

Lance Dixon wrote on January 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

It's called a "Public" Library because it belongs to, and serves, the general public. It is not a business and should not be run like a business. I'm sick of listening to people gripe about taxes. These tax dollars are used to benefit our community as a whole. A strong library, like a police force or sanitation dept. or planning dept. is an important cog in our community machine. Let's see some pride in our town. Pay your taxes and feel good about all the excellent public offerings in Champaign.

mee wrote on February 04, 2014 at 11:02 am

The library is forgetting that its mission is about books.  Patrons are no longer able to check out books from all the libraries that used to be part of the lincoln trails system (except for Unbana).  Sure, they've won national awards for the fancy building.  But the patrons can't get the books they need. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 04, 2014 at 1:02 pm

That was the Champaign Library's doing.  They howled that Mahomet, and Savoy was using their library.  As a result, the Champaign Library went it alone except for it's twin city.  The other communities in Champaign County have seen no problem in remaining in the system, and "sharing" books from all over the state.  The other communities just chocked it up as typical Champaign arrogance.

danrice56 wrote on February 04, 2014 at 4:02 pm

It is utterly ridiculous that a library refuses to act like a library and share resources with adjoining communities. It is also ridiculous that a library board builds a palace they know they won't be able to afford, then expects the taxpayers in the community to go broke to pay for it rather than cutting hours and/or staff even slightly.

Whether a business or a public service this is no way to run things.


I may be moving to Champaign or Urbana soon. If it is Champaign I will still not utilize the Champaign library, as I haven't since the day they decided to become an island unto themselves.


I will also be at every public meeting to protest the fleecing of the taxpayers to pay for their white elephant.

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 05, 2014 at 9:02 am

Location, Location, Location,

Put a restaurant like a Jimmie Johns in there that will generate some real revenue.

They have plenty of rooms to put a for fee tutoring center in there. It's full of U of I / Parkland and highschool students needing help.