The director of the DeKalb Public Library, Dee Coover, and the DPL attorney, Gary Cordes, are meeting with DeKalb County States Attorney, John Farrell, today, to discuss possible violations to the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Cordes admitted to the Daily Chronicle that the library board had violated OMA by voting to approve the purchase of the former DeKalb Clinic property in closed session on May 12, 2010. He later said he didn’t think OMA had been violated due to some exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.
The Open Meetings Act prohibits the board from voting in closed session.The library has posted a FAQ page on its website (Adobe Reader required). Some questions and answers from that document, with commentary, follows:
Will a new library building be ‘green’ and eco-friendly?
Right now we are concentrating on negotiating for the property. When we move into the planning stages for the building, we will look into all aspects of sustainable architecture. One way to be ‘green’ is to pursue LEED certification. There are many levels of LEED certification, and we will work with an architect to create a building that is as eco-friendly as possible while still providing DeKalb residents with excellent service and value.
LEEDS certification is a greenworthy goal. Points are awarded for design, material, construction techniques, operational practices, etc. Add up the points, pay the application fees and various level (gold, silver, bronze) certification is awarded. At the beginning cycle of public sector construction LEEDS is highly touted especially during the get the funding period. Once funding is secured expectations of LEEDS certification is often lowered as board members choose between actual certification and amenities. SEE: The new DeKalb High School and Cortland Elementary School.
TAXES: Will my property taxes go up because of this purchase?
No. The library’s existing tax levy will pay for the site. The library portion of your property taxes will not be increased because of this purchase.
Not to split hairs but taxes will likely need to be increased to satisfy debt repayment for bonds sold to finance the construction of a new library. The purchase price of $1.8 million for the property will pale in comparison to demolition and new construction costs. Some might say, as the table below suggests, that the tax rate was increased beginning in 2007 to pay for the purchase.
DeKalb Public Library Tax Rate 2002-2009 source: City of DeKalb
|Year||Tax Rate||Year||Tax Rate|
Will DeKalb residents vote on a referendum for this purchase?
No. There is no need for a referendum on this purchase, because the library’s existing tax levy will pay for the site.
What about for the construction of the new library? Can the Mayor and DeKalb City Council approve the sale of debt bonds for building a new library without a referendum? Would they?
Will the community have any input on the design of a new library building?
Yes. After the negotiations are concluded and the purchase finalized, and after an architect has been selected and hired, the library will host several public forums at which community members can give their input. Every community has unique needs; we want the new library building to reflect the needs of DeKalb residents, and we value your contributions to this process.
It appears that the library has been interviewing architects in closed sessions and that’s not right.
How much property does this purchase include? Does it include the old A&P?
The library is in ongoing negotiations with the owners of the old DeKalb Clinic building to purchase everything owned by the DeKalb Clinic between Second and Third Streets, also including the old A&P and the parking lots.
Interesting side note: Below, taken from the DeKalb County Government’s GIS website, are property tax bills for the properties involved for 2007, 2008 and 2009. The property paid a handsome amount that mostly goes to the DeKalb C.U.S.D. #428 as property taxes go. The property is also in a TIF district. Look at the drop in taxes for 2009. Is such a drop an telltale sign of what is going on with property values in the old central district? If not for TIF?
Source: DeKalb County GIS
|Parcel #||Tax Year 2007||Tax Year 2008||Tax Year 2009|
Last question. How did the DeKalb Public Library come up with $1.8 million in cash to buy the DeKalb Clinic property? idk
DeKalb Public Library Ending Fund Balance – Source: City of DeKalb
Notes: 2010 is estimated. 2011 is budgeted.
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A look at the property tax rates from 2002-2009 tells the tale. If the library did not hire additional staff, increase programs, etc., then why did they need this increase in the tax rate? Ahhh-to build a fund to buy land!!? IS THAT LEGAL? It seems to me Mr Farrell needs to be looking at this sort of data as well as the more obvious verbatim tapes of closed meetings (do they exist?) in order to determine whether violations occurred and are willful or simply negligent. Is it possible this amount of tax money could be set aside legally? Its pretty hard to imagine how a fund surplus over $1.6 million could be an oversight! Has anyone looked at past minutes (are they all available) to see why this surplus exists and why the tax rates were increased so markedly?
Mac and Gracie,
All I can say is thank god for you two, Lynn and Kay. I’m sure I’m leaving a few out however if it were not for several concerned, diligent and forthright folks like yourselves, even we, who try to pay attention between our kids sports practices and work 50+ might never truly understand the local issues. I applaud you for fighting for our rights in our lazy or overly time taxed stet. Without you all, we would be mowed over by the bureaucracy, ineptly reported issues and apathy which stems from our lack or participation.
I for one, am proud to have you bird dogging not only our local officials but our state as a whole. Thank you all, not only for your concern for our rights, but for writing, reporting and objecting against what so many choose to ignore and complain about after the fact. There are a meek few who are willing to kick the ball off the tee and without you, we would be not only less informed, but simply in a sad state of affairs full circle.
I’ll glad you buy you all lunch simply to say thanks. Pick a time. Bit off topic, but you all deserve your props. (weird, Monk like bow and knuckle tap to follow)