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Watch now: Bloomington library plan faces concerns from residents | Politics

Watch now: Bloomington library plan faces concerns from residents | Politics

BLOOMINGTON — Residents continue to speak out against a potential Bloomington Public Library property tax rate increase to help fund a $22.8 million expansion.

The project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, has received mixed responses. Some residents over the last three weeks have urged the council to vote against approving the property tax rate increase.

“It is a contentious thing when those of us who own property are looking at one more increase in property tax,” Serena Fish said Monday night during the public comment period of the Bloomington City Council meeting. “What I would really like — and what I’m getting from many, many community members — is to please put the library decision on either a ballot decision or referendum and let this community vote on it.”

The city and library are in the process of drafting an intergovernmental agreement that would allow the city to issue up to $17 million in bonds to the library for the project.

A property tax rate increase would allow the library to pay off those bonds with an annual $1.1 million payment over the next 20 years. The library has proposed an approximate .0538% rate increase to help fund its expansion project.

The city and public library have a combined property tax rate that is calculated by dividing the tax levy by the total equalized assessed value, which will not be available until Jan. 1.

The combined property tax levy is $27,038,169 for a combined rate of 1.3568%.

With the tax rate increase, the owner of an average $100,000 home would see a tax increase of $18, which would be reflected on bills starting in May, said Finance Director Scott Rathbun.

On Monday, the city council separated the combined property tax levy for voting purposes.

The council in a 9-0 vote adopted its estimated 2021 property tax levy of $20,920,384, and in a 6-3 vote adopted the library’s estimated $6,117,785 tax levy.

Ward 2 Ald. Donna Boelen, Ward 3 Ald. Sheila Montney, and Ward 5 Ald. Nick Becker voted against adopting the library’s estimated tax levy, which included the property tax rate increase.

The library expansion and subsequent property tax rate increase has been met with mixed reaction among members of the council and Bloomington residents. Some residents say the expansion is needed in order to better serve the community through necessary areas such as a larger computer lab.

Others have called the expansion a “nicety” rather than a necessity, calling on the council to put the project on a backburner. 

For nearly two decades the city and library have negotiated over expansion plans for the 44-year-old building. The library was last expanded in 2006 to improve accessibility and programming. 

“Literacy today is multi-model, it includes reading, listening, composing, imagining, doing, in ways that were not even possible a decade ago,” said War 9 Ald. Tom Crumpler. “We must ensure our public library is a 21st century facility, that that facility is equipped with the tools and resources to support the shifting needs of all of our residents of this growing community.”

A public hearing regarding the library’s property tax rate increase will be held Dec. 6 prior to a Bloomington City Council meeting. The 2021 tax levy will be adopted during the Dec. 13 council meeting.

Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.