On Wednesday night, the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees made it official. The board unanimously approved placing a referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot, asking voters to approve borrowing $10.3 million to build a new library.
If the referendum is approved by a majority of voters, a new 32,000-square-foot building will be built on land the library owns across the street at 3541 Park Ave., replacing the present 13,000-square-foot building at 3609 Grand Blvd. The new library is projected to cost about $14.5 million, but the library has saved $4.2 million and placed that money in a special reserve fund.
“We’re ready,” said Jennifer Perry, the president of the library board of trustees. “We’ve done everything we could. We’ve prepared.”
If the $10.3 million bond issue is approved, owners of a home with a market value of $200,000 are projected to pay an additional $137 a year in property taxes over the next 20 years.
The owner of a home worth $300,000 is projected to pay an additional $201 a year in property taxes, while the owner of a home worth $100,000 would pay an additional $67 a year, according to Brookfield Public Library Director Kimberly Coughran.
Library officials say that a new building is need because the current one is too small and cannot be expanded.
A press release issued by the library board Thursday morning stated, “In the last 10 years, the library has been unable to meet resident demand due to the lack of space.
The press release noted that in 2015, more than 700 people were turned away from library programs.
“With a meeting room that holds a maximum of 31 people, shelves bursting at the seams, and adults, children and teens crowded together on one small space, the library cannot fulfill its mission in the current facility,” the press release stated.
According to the press release the number of annual visits to the library has increased from 95,852 in 2005 to 138,501 in 2015. Items checked out have more than doubled in the past 10 years, increasing from 150,903 in 2005 to 307,836 in 2015. Adult class attendance has increased from 584 to 2,936 in the past decade.
The library board is also in the midst of a community engagement survey, which is designed to gather community feedback. Surveys can be filled out online through July 7. Everyone who completes a survey will be invited to enter a drawing for a Samsung Galaxy tablet.
The third question of the survey asks survey takers how they feel about borrowing $10.3 million to build a new library. The fourth question asks whether the survey taker is leaning toward or against supporting a referendum.
One purpose of the survey seems to be to test which messages or arguments advocates of a new library should emphasize in the referendum campaign.
The library board had until Aug. 22 to approve a referendum question for the November ballot.
Perry said that the board did not feel the need to wait for the survey results to be completed and tabulated. Since late 2015, the library had hosted four community engagement sessions presenting information about the need for a new facility and has extensively studied the issue for nearly a decade.
“We would have liked to have done the survey earlier, but it’s actually not ethical of us to base our decision purely on survey results,” Perry said. “I don’t know how many completed surveys we’re going to get in and after all the work of the facility advisory committee and the engagement sessions, this was the logical progression.”
At the end of the last legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill allowing the library’s referendum debt not to count against the village’s debt limit.
Perry said that she didn’t know how the proposal would fare at the polls.
“I think the community needs it,” Perry said. “I think it could do a lot for the community. Does everyone else feel that way or do enough people feel that way? I don’t know. I can’t speculate on that. I hope they do.”