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In this Jan. 6 file photo, patrons browse through new books and media materials that crowd the entrance to the Bloomington Public Library. 

DAVID PROEBER, PANTAGRAPH FILE PHOTO

BLOOMINGTON — For a second year in a row Bloomington Public Library will seek a tax levy increase — this time to help fund a future expansion or $2 million in needed repairs if it stays at the current site.

The library has proposed a balanced $5.59 million operating and maintenance budget for fiscal 2019, which will begin May 1. It calls for a 2.9 percent increase, or $158,643, from this year's budget of about $5.43 million.

"We really looked at the operating budget and tried to cut where we could," said library Director Jeanne Hamilton. "But then we really tried to look at the future, too."

The proposed budget, which the library board unanimously approved Tuesday night, also calls for a tax levy hike of about 3 percent, or $140,493 — from $4.68 million levied in 2017 to $4.82 million to be levied in 2018.

"Just as we find it's imperative to prepare for the future by saving for future repairs and replacements as a homeowner, it's important that the library does the same thing," said Hamilton. "But if the community decides it does want an expansion this money will help build the foundation for that."

The Council Council will consider at its Nov. 13 meeting whether or not to set the library's tax levy as proposed by the library's trustees. If the council votes against it, the budget will come back to the library board to redo.

If approved, the $140,493 in additional revenue would be added to the library's separate capital fund balance of about $2.43 million to be used as "a down payment" for the library's expansion.

While the Downtown Task Force has been discussing a catalyst project involving building a new library at the Market Street parking deck site, the library board hired the Farnsworth Group in 2015 to complete the planning phase and produce a site plan using its current location of 205 E. Olive St.

"We can use this money for architectural, engineering and those type of things to find out what it would truly cost to expand," said library board President Alex Cardona. "Or if nothing happens, we can look at what we need to do specifically to stay in this building."

The $2 million in necessary repairs over the next five years at the current facility include replacing the roof, return air ducts, air handler, carpeting, broken/worn furniture, garage driveway, parking lot curb, retaining wall and lighting, said Hamilton.

Compared to the repair list, "$140,000 is a drop in the bucket," said library trustee Susan Mohr. "If a new library is not wanted, I think we have a lot people who can look at the hard data that we have and agree that people are using the library, people appreciate the library.

"So just to maintain our current building and our current level of service we need that amount, at the very least," added Mohr.

The estimated tax rate would be $0.26055 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation.

The library's share of the tax bill for the owner of a $165,000 home is expected to increase $4.17 — from $139.13 payable this year to $143.30 payable in 2018. 

Even with the proposed increase, Bloomington library's tax rate remains much lower than those of other libraries in the region, said Hamilton.

In comparison, library tax rates are $0.4526 per $100 EAV for Normal, $0.5694 per $100 EAV for Urbana, $0.4222 per $100 EAV for Champaign and $0.43032 per $100 EAV for Peoria, Hamilton said.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @pg_nagle

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