Regarding DeKalb Library’s other loan

Here’s an excerpt from my latest at DeKalb County Online:

Thanks to recent discussion of DeKalb Public Library’s plan to pay back taxpayers for emergency help with its expansion project, much of DeKalb knows about DKPL’s $4.5 million bank loan to keep construction going during Illinois’ budget impasse.

Not many know about the bank loan of $3 million, but maybe you should. Here’s why:

  • DKPL originally took out the loan in 2013 for a term of two years, but still owes more than $1 million on it.
  • Revenues and payments on this loan have not been accounted for in library budgets.
  • Votes to renew the loan are not documented in meeting minutes, which may violate the library’s own bylaws as well as the Open Meetings Act.
  • The whole thing is here, and if you’re interested in talking about it, try the Facebook group.

    Mayor’s statement about DeKalb Public Library’s tax promises

    Mayor Smith came out this week in support of calls for DeKalb Public Library to keep its 2015 promises to repay taxpayers, and says he is confident the DKPL board “will do the right thing.”


    DeKalb County Online: DeKalb Public Library and its property tax promises

    City Barbs: Going deeper on DeKalb Public Library’s expansion and promises

    DeKalb County Online: Something’s missing from discussions of DeKalb Public Library’s property tax levy

    Going deeper on DeKalb Public Library’s expansion and promises

    The main thing you need to know is that DeKalb Public Library made promises to DeKalb property taxpayers in 2015, and now is considering breaking its promises. But I couldn’t resist putting together some FAQs for anyone who might like more details.

    How much did the expansion cost?
    Total cost was $25.3 million. At center was an $11.6 million Illinois State Library construction grant, along with funding from a mix of public sources (e.g., TIF funds from City of DeKalb), loans, and private donations to DeKalb Public Library (DKPL). State grants involve a local match, so part of the non-grant funding covered the local share. Non-grant funding also paid for extras that were not eligible to be covered by the grant.

    What was the delay of grant funding about?
    The library construction grant is released in four stages based on percentage of construction completed. If a portion of a grant isn’t released during a given fiscal year, it must be re-appropriated the following year. The library received chunks of the grant at 30% and 60% project completion, but release of monies for 90% and 100% completion were delayed during Illinois’ budget impasse. The outstanding amounts, totaling $4.6 million, couldn’t be re-appropriated until passage of another state budget.

    Was there a real danger that the grant money would never be released to the library?
    Probably not. According to DKPL, the state had already issued bonds specific to the construction grants, so they couldn’t be used for anything else. It was just a matter of re-appropriation when Illinois started passing budgets again. The immediate threat was a shutdown if the library couldn’t find a way to keep construction going. A shutdown of any length would have been expensive in its own right.

    Why has controversy cropped up now?
    In January, the state released the rest of the grant except for a final installment of $1.1 million. With millions now in the bank, DKPL faces the decision to keep the money or to keep its promises of 2015. At issue is abatement/rebate of some $971,000 back to property taxpayers, and the removal of the emergency property tax levy of $500,000. People who attended library board’s recent special meeting saw the board “leaning” toward remitting only a partial rebate and keeping the levy for operations. Either action would break a promise.

    Property tax scenarios the library is considering. Trustees appear to be leaning toward scenario 2 or 3, but only 4 fulfills the library’s promises to DeKalb residents.

    Were there alternatives to a bank loan, and/or a property tax levy increase to cover it? Continue reading Going deeper on DeKalb Public Library’s expansion and promises

    Library Budget Figures Look Pretty Interesting

    An alert reader tipped me off that the DeKalb Public Library added about $10.5 million to its fund balance last year (see FY2013 column, bottom line; click & magnify to see it bigger).

    FY2015 Library Budget 2of2 photo LibraryBudget2of2_zpsc6c1348a.jpg

    Nice, huh? Wherever did it come from? Let’s check the revenues.

     photo LibraryBudget1of2_zps3855ef75.jpg

    Hmmm. Not here, either — and we still have to account for $8.5 million and change.

    Doesn’t seem like just a typo or simple arithmetic error. Probably bond proceeds or the state construction grant came in and somebody neglected to add it to the appropriate line item.

    Whatever the answer is, it seems a pretty large mistake to slip by to this stage. Just sayin’.

    DeKalb Public Library and Greed

    In a post from January 10, I told you I’d continue trying to get information about the state’s Public Library Construction Grant Program since we knew so few of the institutions that won them.

    Part of the reason it has taken so long to get back to you is that I goofed up my chance to fight for the information. Yep, I sure did. Since the Illinois State Library had always responded quite fully and promptly to previous Freedom of Information Act requests, I didn’t bother to make a copy of the request for the list of awardees. This time they denied me the document and I was unable to ask for a review of the decision because under FOIA you must provide a copy of the original FOIA request along with the Request for Review.

    The lesson here, of course, is not to trust anybody — not even librarians. Continue reading DeKalb Public Library and Greed

    Library Supporters Not Trying Very Hard to Raise Private Money

    Jolly. Oregon didn’t pass its library referendum so the state gave Oregon’s library construction grant of $3.1 million to DeKalb Public Library. So we’re back to the $24 million building plan.

    I’d feel better about the state’s grant program if the whole process weren’t rife with secrets, but since I decided not to fight the first denial, I have to wait until next month and file another Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to try to find out which institutions received the grants, and how. June 30 is the date that the money is to be released to the winning libraries and all shall be revealed at that time, right?


    “I am absolutely confident we’ll raise the money for it, but I am budgeting for it,” Coover said.

    Coover and board President Clark Neher said the library has raised $1 million already, although most of that is in the form of pledges. Neher said they haven’t flexed their fundraising muscles yet.

    “We’ve been doing [fundraising] almost informally,” Neher said.

    The library folk are putting on brave faces about their ability to raise private funds for the expansion project — about $3 million is the goal now I guess? — but according to the newspaper article DKPL’s fundraising arm has done almost nothing to put actual money in the bank. Also the not-quite-being-promised amount appears to be shrinking?

    For more posts on this topic, see the DeKalb Public Library tag.

    Library to Borrow $6 Million as Part of “Fundraising Strategy”

    Library ShelvesOnce again let me express deep, deep skepticism that DeKalb Public Library will actually raise the stated goal of $6 million in private donations to contribute to its expansion costs.

    Witness the latest step toward putting it on the taxpayers.

    In order to meet a looming June 30 deadline, the DeKalb Public Library will borrow $6 million from a private bank as a part of its fundraising strategy for its planned expansion.

    How does that even work? If DKPL can just walk into a bank and get a loan of millions, why is it asking the City of DeKalb for help?

    Just as importantly, is there anyone who believes DKPL will honestly commit to fundraising once a bank loan is in hand?

    If the library board were serious about raising funds from anybody besides Mr. & Ms. Taxpayer, it would have launched a capital campaign well before last month and passed the hat ’round its own table. As of December it hadn’t identified even one major donor and that’s got to be the case today, else they wouldn’t still be looking at borrowing the entire $6 mil.

    I truly believe DKPL’s “fundraising strategy” is to use public money, period. Only the city council can change that course and it can start by applying the brakes Monday.

    Library Talks to the City About Issuing Bonds for Its Expansion

    Here’s the latest.

    DeKalb library leaders asked the DeKalb City Council on Monday if it would consider borrowing $7.5 million for the $24 million construction project, which would add 47,000 square feet to the 19,000-square-foot building at 309 Oak St. Library leaders need to secure $15.5 million by June 1 to qualify for an $8.5 million state construction grant they were offered last month.

    No, that’s not quite right. They weren’t “offered” anything. DKPL applied for the grant last April and its number finally came up, probably because a couple other libraries lost referenda in November (but we don’t know for sure, because I’ve been foiled in my FOIA inquiry).

    It’s a crying shame for taxpayers that DKPL turned in an application with a plan to spend $24 million, because the eligible construction costs only come to about $13 million. This means there are a lot of goodies in there that the state won’t cover. When DKPL board members say they really, really tried so hard to save taxpayers money, the fitting response is a derisive laugh. Continue reading Library Talks to the City About Issuing Bonds for Its Expansion

    Be Prepared for a $24 Million Tab

    The discussion about the city’s issuing bonds on behalf of DeKalb Public Library for its expansion starts at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.

    In order to secure the $15.5M needed for the expansion, the Library has a plan of financing for City Council consideration. The Library will use $1M in Library fund balance and is planning to raise $6M in donations. The Library is requesting $1M from the City from TIF funds. For the remaining $7.5M, the Library will bond this amount, which will be a general obligation bond paid by property taxes. The Library is a component unit of the City; therefore the City would have to issue these bonds on behalf of the Library.

    Discussion and direction is requested on the $1.M contribution from the TIF fund, the bonding for the $7.5M remaining balance, and the timing of these actions. The City’s Financial Advisor will be present to assist the Council in this discussion.

    This is the biggest bunch of hooey ever. There is no way DKPL will do the work necessary to raise the promised private donations because the City of DeKalb is its sugar daddy. I believe it is also quite possible that the State of Illinois will be good for nothing much beyond IOUs. Be prepared for us to be on the hook 100% for another overbuilt monument to our particularly destructive brand of hubris.

    Facts Relating to the Library Expansion Price Tag

    DeKalb Public Library has finally shared with the Daily Chronicle the expected full cost of its expansion plan: $24 million.

    This is amazing to me. I was there a few weeks ago and director Dee Coover told me the board had cut back the expansion plan by one-third to adjust to lowered population projections. Does this mean the original price tag was $36 million, or that the price tag is the same, with one-third less space but more bells and whistles?

    At any rate, we do have some facts to chew on:

    • The estimated cost is twice that of DeKalb’s new police station.

    • Our neighbor Aurora approved an expansion plan for its library system last year that cost $30 million — but Aurora is five times the size of DeKalb and has two branches and a bookmobile.

    • The state grant of $8.5 million covers a little less than 65% of eligible construction costs, meaning DeKalb’s eligible costs come to about $13 million. It also means that up to $11 million of the total cost comprises extras not allowable under the grant program.

    For these reasons, my earlier dubbing of the expansion proposal as the “Taj-Mah Library” still stands. Especially as DeKalb is becoming smaller and poorer.

    The facts also don’t help to quell very serious doubts — from both fiscal and legal standpoints — that the city should not be issuing bonds on behalf of DKPL.

    That’s not to say I’m anti-expansion. I’m not, and in fact I’m generally not strictly anti-anything except for “ends-justify-the-means” excuses, entitlement mentality, illegality, incompetence, lying and other sins and failures of public morality.