In December, the North Riverside Public Library District’s board of trustees paid off the $2.95 million debt issued 20 years ago to build the library. But with the property beginning to show signs of wear and tear — both inside and outside — trustees want to make sure they have funds to address future capital improvements and maintenance.

So, on Dec. 21 the library board voted to ask North Riverside residents to help fund those expenses and will place a referendum question on the March 15 ballot asking for a permanent 29-percent bump in its tax levy.

If approved, the library would expect to receive approximately $270,000 in additional property taxes annually starting in 2017.

Library officials say that the impact of the increase would be about $32 for a single-family residence with a fair market value of $100,000.

However, that increase would be offset by the recent bond debt repayment. According to library officials, the owner of a $100,000 home in North Riverside paid about $34 per year to repay the successful 1995 bond issue.

In addition, the library in 2019 will also retire a $525,000 debt it incurred in 2007 when the board issued debt certificates to build out the Youth Services Department in the lower level of the building.

The North Riverside Public Library opened June 1, 1999. While many people still view the facility as the “new” library in the area, it is beginning to show signs of age.

Earlier in 2015, the library board commissioned Engberg Anderson Architects to complete a capital repairs study, which the firm delivered to the board in November.

While no life-safety issues were identified by the architectural firm, the study does point out a number of capital improvements that will need to be made in the next decade or so, including replacing the library’s roof and replacing the building’s heating and air-conditioning system.

One of the more immediate needs, said Library Director Ted Bodewes, is repairing deteriorating sidewalks outside the building.

“The concrete sidewalks are shifting and becoming dangerous,” he said.

In the next 10 years, according to the architect’s report, the library will need about $1.8 million to complete those and other improvements.

While the tax increase being asked for in March can be used for any general operating purpose, Bodewes said that most of the money would be specifically earmarked for capital improvements and maintenance.

“We intend to create a special reserve fund to hold the money from year to year,” Bodewes said. “We don’t want to be in a position 10 years from now where the roof goes and we don’t have the money for it.”

The library board has worked out preliminary budget projections through 2025 that show $2 million being placed into that special reserve fund, if the March referendum is successful.

If the referendum is not successful, capital projects will either need to be postponed or funded through the library’s operating reserves. As of the end of 2015, the library had about $735,000 in cash reserves.

Should the library choose to use that money to fund capital improvements outlined in the architect’s report, the cash reserves would evaporate by 2019.

In a press release issued by the library board, President Annette Corgiat said the additional money for capital upkeep was vital.

“I want to assure the residents that we are a frugal board that maintains a clean budget and balances in the black every year,” Corgiat said. “This referendum is necessary.”

The last time the library sought cash to build out the Youth Services Department, it did not go to referendum, opting to issue debt certificates.

The library’s last referendum was the successful one in 1995 that resulted in the library’s construction a few years later. But that vote was by no means a gimme — the final tally was 718 to 645 in favor of issuing $2.95 million in construction bonds.