Finance Committee sends proposal to increase subsidy funding for library to full City Council

Helsabeck

Kathleen Helsabeck, executive director of the Quincy Public Library, stands next to a computer screen during a presentation at Monday night's Finance Committee meeting in Quincy City Hall. In the back row from left are Director of Planning and Development Chuck Bevelheimer, 1st Ward alderman Greg Fletcher and 3rd Ward alderman Kelly Mays. Seated at the table, going clockwise from left, are Mayor Mike Troup, 1st Ward alderman Eric Entrup, Finance Committee chair (and 5th Ward alderman) Mike Rein and 4th Ward alderman Tony Sassen. Standing at right is Scott Hardy with WTAD Radio. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Finance Committee voted on Monday night to send a proposal to the full Quincy City Council that calls for an increase in the amount of subsidy funding to the Quincy Public Library next year.

Kathleen Helsabeck, executive director of the library, made a presentation during Monday’s meeting, which was attended by all but two of the 14 aldermen — Mike Farha, R-4, and Ben Uzelac, D-7. She is expecting expenses to be at $3,304,429 for Fiscal Year 2025, and she is asking for the city to provide $2,352,425 — 71 percent of the total funds. The city provided $1.98 million to the library last year.

“An 18 percent increase, that is significant,” Helsabeck admitted. “It’s huge. We are still funding the second year of our union contract when we gave a 12 percent increase because the state minimum wage went up.”

The library will receive $732,052 through the library levy, which already has been set. It expects to receive $832,108 in personal property replacement tax. Helsabeck is asking for the city to contribute $788,265 in a subsidy to fill the funding shortfall. Last year, the library asked for a subsidy of $364,459.

Helsabeck said costs are increased because of a 12.64 increase in salaries and the effect of the minimum wage hike. She also expects a six percent increase in services materials and utilities, as well as increased costs for delivery of interlibrary loans and services for the library’s shared online catalog system.

The library has found its own IT employees, health insurance and bookkeeping because the city no longer provides the support. Those moves have saved taxpayers more than $400,000, Helsabeck said.

She said the library averages 8,500 patrons and 5,000 digital checkouts monthly, leading to 156,000 patrons visiting and using the library annually. She said 22,000 items are checked out monthly.

Helsabeck also said she expects to increase staff by three people next year, with two of them staffing the library’s new bookmobile. Dean LaVelle, president of the library board, noted the staffing for the library has gone from 45 employees in 2011 to 33 in 2024.

“We are losing senior people with 20 years of experience with a library going somewhere else for money, even though they had a pension that they were going to try to earn,” he said. “We’re losing real people who have a major impact on the library.”

The city is required by the Illinois Local Library Act to provide a dollar amount collected by a 15-cent-per-$100 equalized assessed value. Helsabeck said the city also has been giving the library a subsidy since 1990. The subsidy rate has been below one-tenth of one percent in three of the last four years, and it would be 0.0983 percent if the city agrees with her proposal.

“The library board has always determined the amount needed, and we’ve always supplied our budget request to the city,” Helsabeck said.

Helsabeck said the library board is an independent unit of government, but that’s “something that hasn’t always been recognized until recently.” She said the library board has the autonomy and authority to determine the amount of funding needed. She also referred to a 1993 opinion from the Illinois attorney general’s office supporting the levy of a tax for library purposes.

During the meeting, Helsabeck said the library board sets the rate needed, “and the city passes it. Because we’re home rule, you can levy more than 15 percent.”

“Right. But we don’t have to,” said Mike Rein, chairman of the Finance Committee.

“To fund the library at the needed level, (the levy) really needs to be more than 15 (percent),” Helsaback said. 

“Well, I’m just saying. That’s a discretionary thing,” Rein said. 

Helsabeck said the city has established a precedent of paying the subsidy beyond the 15 percent levy.

“We have a lot of precedents, and a lot of them aren’t very good either,” Rein said.

Later in the meeting, Rein said, “It’s time to take the library out of the city’s budget. On the tax bill, it should be the library. Even though we might give them approval to go above the 15 cents, it’s their levy, not the city’s levy. They’re doing it to the taxpayers, not us.”

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