Thursday, October 30, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 2:00 PM
Executive Director Huntington says Library hopes to be out of debt by mid-year 2016
Last year around this time, the Maywood Public Library was closed. The venerable institution had experienced a shortfall in operating funds due to a drastic reduction in property tax revenue and a debt burden stemming from the financial costs of building its gleaming $8 million annex in 1998.
But even then, library officials — notably Executive Director Stan Huntington — insisted that, despite a lack of cash, the library’s underlying financial foundation was nonetheless pretty strong. In fact, paradoxically, the library’s closing was, in part, caused by the fact that so much of its annual revenue was being allocated toward paying down its debt.
After pressure from local residents and officials, such as Mayor Edwenna Perkins and State Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th), Seaway Bank extended for another 12 months the terms of repayment on about $500,000 the library owed on a short-term tax anticipation note. It also lent another $150,000 to the library, which the board believed at the time would be enough to continue operations through the spring of 2014.
One year later, Huntington’s evaluation seems close to being vindicated. Unlike so many taxing bodies in the area, the village included, the Maywood Public Library, which levies its own taxes, has a pension fund that is, according to library officials, virtually 100 percent funded.
In comparison, Maywood’s police and fire pensions have funding ratios of only 33 and 36 percent, respectively. A recent analysis by the Better Government Association (BGA) named Maywood’s police and fire pension systems among the ten most troubled in suburban Cook County — with those of Melrose Park included on that list.
With the mortgage paid on the $8 million addition, the only debt that the library currently has is about $300,000 in money owed to Seaway bank — an amount Huntington believes should be paid down in the next few years.
“We will be out of debt, if all goes well, in 2016 — hopefully by mid-year,” he said. “The other debt you have outside of capital debt is employee liabilities. In this case, ours are zero. That puts the library on really good footing.”
That said, however, Huntington was careful not to overstate the library’s financial forecast, which is intimately tied to the general economic vitality of the village itself.
__ MORE AFTER THE NOTIFICATION __
NOTICE OF PROPOSED PROPERTY TAX INCREASE FOR MAYWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT
I. A public hearing to approve a proposed property tax levy increase for the Maywood Public Library District for 2014 will be held on November 5, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Library, 121 South Fifth Avenue, Maywood, Illinois.
II. The corporate and special purpose property taxes extended or abated for 2013 were $1,466,767.59. The proposed corporate and special purpose property taxes to be levied for 2014 are $1,895,500.00. This represents a 29.2% increase over the previous year.
III. The property taxes extended for debt service and public building commission leases for 2013 were $0.00. The estimated property taxes to be levied for debt service and public building commission leases for 2014 are $0.00. This represents a 0.0% change from the previous year.
IV. The total property taxes extended or abated for 2013 were $1,466,767.59. The estimated total property taxes to be levied for 2014 are $1,895,000.00. This represents a 29.2% increase over the previous year.
BY ORDER OF THE BOARD OF LIBRARY OF TRUSTEES OF THE MAYWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY
__ MORE BELOW __
“I don’t want people to think the library is rolling in money — that’s just not true,” he said. “We’ve lost a lot of money. Our EAV [Equalized Assessed Value] has tanked to the point where we can’t get that back. The library’s income has dropped by about half-a-million dollars, which is very substantial. Maywood’s property values have decreased substantially. That’s hurting the village, it’s hurting the schools, it’s hurting everybody.”
Huntington said, short of substantial industrial or commercial development taking place in Maywood, it could be well into the next decade before the village begins to recover some of that value.
In the meantime, he said that the library is trying to capture as much tax value as it can before the St. Charles TIF district expires on December 31, this year. The village effectively ended the TIF last year, but opted to pay into it for an additional year.
Recently, library officials put out a notification announcing a public hearing to take place at the library on November 5, at 6:30 PM, in association with “a proposed property tax levy increase.”
“The proposed corporate and special purpose property taxes to be levied for 2014 are $1,895,500.00. This represents a 29.2% increase over the previous year,” according to the notification, which was published in a recent edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Huntington explained that that figure is arbitrarily high, since he doesn’t know how much the EAV will be in 2014 — and the village, for whatever reason, isn’t telling. With the December deadline looming, however, he noted that he had to put something out in order to take advantage of the expiring TIF valuation.
__ MORE AFTER THE AD __
SEE MAYWOOD FINE ARTS’S OWN AT THE LYRIC OPERA HOUSE
He said that residents shouldn’t interpret this as an increase in the amount of property taxes they pay to the library, since the library’s portion of tax revenue is capped at a certain figure by Cook County.
“As a practical matter, the average resident won’t see any change in their tax bills at all,” Huntington said. “Not with the Maywood Library, at least, because we’re tax-capped and we’ll be dropped back to whatever the cap allows.”
Huntington noted that this may not be the case for the village, which isn’t subject to the cap.
“Maywood is a home rule community, so they can tax at whatever they want,” he said. “There’s no limit to what they can tax.” VFP