BLOOMINGTON — Alderman Scott Black wants city administrators to develop an option to lower the city's portion of property tax bills to offset a tax hike for the Bloomington Public Library.
Other aldermen said setting a higher estimated tax levy was complicated by uncertainty over whether the library will expand at its current location near City Hall or move to downtown.
The City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to set the estimated property tax levy for the library higher at $140,493.
"This is not like a major increase, but nobody is jonesing for a property tax increase," said Black of Ward 7. "Maybe we find a way to lower (the city's) levy a little bit, so the average taxpayer's bill would look about the same (as this year's)."
He asked that option be presented to the council to consider prior to the Dec. 18 deadline to pass a final tax levy ordinance.
The council unanimously approved holding the line on property taxes next year and to keep the estimated property tax levy at $20.06 million.
The library's levy is proposed to increase 3 percent — from $4.68 million payable in 2017 to $4.82 million payable in 2018.
Together, the city and library levies are expected to yield a total tax rate of $1.3442 per $100 EAV, producing a tax bill of $739 for the owner of a $165,000 house. That's an increase of about $4.17 for the library and no increase for the city.
Ward 5 Alderman Joni Painter, a former library board trustee, said she feels the library has been "woefully underfunded for years," but she voted against setting the tax levy higher for the library.
"Until this whole deal with moving the library downtown is laid to rest I will not vote for raising another penny for it," said Painter, referring to the Downtown Task Force's recommendation to develop the Market Street parking deck into a hub for the city's library and Connect Transit downtown transfer station.
"Quite frankly, from what I've heard from all of my constituents, moving the library downtown has all of the appeal that (the U.S. Cellular) Coliseum had, and I'm not going to touch that," said Painter.
Ward 2 Alderman David Sage said he voted against the library tax increase because "we have to stop asking people to give more money in taxes. People simply don't have the money anymore to keep paying higher taxes."
"I do hear a lot of confusion from the population at large about where the library is going to be," said Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt.
The library board has "spent a lot of money on a site plan at its existing location," said Schmidt. "(The city) has spent money in purchasing property and demolishing it ... in building on a vision Mayor (Tari) Renner put forward in 2015 for developing the campus south of the library. I think it's important that we have some clarification on that."
A majority of the council in a straw poll in June concurred with the library board's decision to expand its facility at its current site.
"To now change in the middle of the game, when we've told residents that this is where we are going, I think is a little bit difficult to be able to explain and can lead us to lose credibility," said Ward 3 Mboka Mwilambwe.
"To me, the library is staying at its current location and expanding," added Black.