Despite an argument that residents wouldn’t see their property tax bills increase and that the measure meant a cost of just $32 more for the owner of a home with a fair market value of $100,000, North Riverside voters turned aside a referendum to raise the North Riverside Public Library District’s tax limiting rate by 29 percent.
With all five precincts reporting on Tuesday night, the unofficial vote totals showed that the referendum failed by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.
Library officials were counting on the additional $270,000 per year in property taxes to tackle a raft of building infrastructure issues over the next decade, including roof replacement, repairs to sidewalks and replacing the library’s heating and air-conditioning systems.
Library Director Ted Bodewes said in January, when the referendum was announced, that the library board intended to create a special reserve fund to hold the additional revenue specifically for capital improvements to the library property.
“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,” Bodewes said at the time.
The library board had projected that if a referendum was successful, they would be able to place about $2 million into the special fund through 2025.
With the failure of the referendum, those capital plans will have to be reformulated. Projects will either have to be delayed or paid for through general operating revenues, which could affect services. At the end of 2015, the library had cash reserves of about $750,000.
The North Riverside Public Library’s Board of Trustees identified 2016 as the year to seek a referendum, since the district just paid off a $2.95 million debt it issued 20 years ago to build the library.
While a successful referendum would have raised the tax rate to bring in additional revenue, residents would not have seen much of a difference on their tax bills. For the past 20 years, the library has been levying about the same amount in taxes to pay the debt service on the now-retired bond issue.
Voter turnout in North Riverside was strong, as it was elsewhere in Cook County, on Tuesday. The 49.6 percent voter turnout reported in North Riverside on Tuesday by the Cook County Clerk dwarfed the roughly 24 percent voter turnout countywide for the 2012 presidential primary election.
This article has been changed to reflect that the tax increase estimate was based on fair market value of property.