No tax increase? Woodstock Library says it’s possible

Woodstock Library trustees may present voters with a zero tax levy increase if it uses its surplus funding from prior years and finds cuts in other places. Fiscal Officer Liz Rosen presented the first draft of the Library’s 2020 budget at the June 20 board meeting with a $13,102, or 2.04 percent spending increase over this year’s $641,744 budget, calling for a $10,102 or 1.73 percent levy increase.

However, Rosen noted that can get brought down to less than 1 percent if the board approves a fund for compensated absences and moves $20,000 into it. That would allow for the elimination of $5,000 budgeted for 2020 absences. Compensated absences are accrued from unused sick time and other time off that must be paid out when an employee leaves. The actual figure is unknown until somebody leaves, but is considered a liability for accounting purposes.

The board also discussed using $10,000 from the surplus that was earmarked for a possible technology fund.

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Trustee and Building Committee Chair Jill Fisher suggested the zero levy increase as a goodwill gesture, something she suggested last year but was rebuffed. She said since a new building is planned, perhaps the library does not need to order as many new items. “I would also suggest that if we are going to be moving things out of here, that maybe we don’t need so many books on order,” she said.

Acting Director Tammy Katzowitz voiced her opposition to cutting new book orders. She said it was something she could not endorse as a librarian.

President Dorothea Marcus suggested there may be other places to cut. “We saved a lot of money by switching cleaning services,” she said. “There may be a lot of things like that.”

Trustee Jesse Jones said he was in favor of a zero levy increase and other trustees were in agreement. Marcus encouraged trustees to look for ways to cut.

But former trustee and longtime critic John Ludwig told the board that he believed there is enough surplus for a zero levy increase without the need for any cuts.

Year-end reports show a $134,326 surplus for 2018 and $68,909 for 2017. Of that, trustees have transferred $100,000 to the capital fund established for the new library building. Ludwig told trustees the surplus amounts need to be fully understood before any budget decisions are made for 2020.

Director Jessica Kerr, who is on medical leave, has explained the surplus for 2018 was primarily from staffing changes and unfilled positions.

Rosen said the 2017 surplus was from the departure of the children’s librarian and other staff, medical insurance and retirement payments coming in below budget and lower fuel costs than expected. Professional fees were also significantly under budget.

New trustee appointed

The board welcomed new trustee Howard Kagan to replace Tammy Katzowitz, who had to step down to become acting library director, in Jessica Kerr’s absence.

Kagan is an architect who has been serving on the Building Committee. He started the Chicago firm Howard Kagan Architecture and has practiced since 1973. Past projects include Chicago Public Radio, Northwestern University Radio and many others.

Kagan will serve until the end of the year and said he intends to run for an October election to a full term.

Tilly’s new library schematic presentation in July

Stephen Tilly, the Dobbs Ferry architect contracted for a new 12,000-square-foot library, will present the schematic design to the public at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center on July 23 at 7 p.m. This is touted as the phase of the project that will allow the public get a better idea of the new building than the current concept model and drawings.

“We’ll get a sense of the nuts and bolts and not just the exterior,” Marcus said.

Tilly recently showed a floor plan and received comments from the staff, Fisher said.

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