You may have noticed that the Landmark hasn’t taken a strong editorial position either in favor or against the referendum question that’s on the ballot in Brookfield, asking residents to support a bond issue to build a new library.
It’s not because we don’t think a new library is needed.
The present Brookfield Public Library building is substandard in almost every way. It’s cramped, it’s configured oddly because of the pie-shaped lot the building was forced into, it’s barely accessible to the handicapped.
It’s difficult to host programming of any size, because there are so few rooms able to accommodate more than a couple dozen people at a time. It’s tough to find a quiet place to work, especially after school.
Truth be told, the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees did a disservice to the village when they approved the present building back in the mid-1980s. It was a penny-wise, pound-foolish solution that was blind to the future.
The building was constructed in such a way that a second-story addition cannot be added, so the footprint that exists now is the footprint that will continue to exist until a new facility is built.
It’s wholly inadequate.
The present library board has very deliberately built the case for a new facility and has been squirreling away money, in part by an additional tax levied at the end of each year. That practice got no attention from residents at all until this year, when some protested it was inappropriate.
Actually, the practice will allow the library board, if a referendum is approved, to sell less in bonds and make the annual blow to taxpayers a little smaller. That’s called planning.
But we also realize the ramifications of such things to families in Brookfield. The village’s residents just passed a major bond referendum to improve the village’s streets. It was long-overdue recognition by the village board that it had to establish a sustainable, sensible way to fund the repair of failing public infrastructure. But it is coming with a real cost — $400 for the owner of an average home – over the next 15 years.
Residents who live in southwest Brookfield also face another referendum on the ballot – one to increase funding for School District 102. Success would mean another $320 annually for an average homeowner. And in the spring, School District 95 will be asking Proviso Township residents for a tax increase to fund a major building campaign. If successful, the average homeowner would pay an additional $500 per year.
It all adds up very quickly.
What it comes down to is individual priorities and the ability of each family’s bank account to pay for improved services or just keeping up with demand.
Would Brookfield residents benefit from a new library? Undoubtedly. The staff there has proven it knows what kind of programming residents want and has tried their best to deliver it within the confines of present conditions.
But this decision is between each resident and their pocketbooks. We’re sure it’s going to be a very tough call on Nov. 8.