By Bob Balgemann


More than one city official has said he would like there to be discussion on dealing with the Ida Public Library’s annual tax levy.

Mayor Mike Chamberlain made the first call in January, not long after city council in another split vote approved the library’s requested levy increase of $18,301 for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“I would like to be separated from the library so we don’t have any responsibility for what they do with their levy, and I’m looking into that,” he said. “This is the way it’s been since I was an alderman, with the levy coming through the city. I would like to see that changed so we don’t have this discussion every year.”

Chamberlain since then lost his bid for re-election on April 6.

But the night before the election, at the April 5 city council meeting, during discussion of the 2021-22 city budget, Alderman Tom Porter addressed the library situation.

“I see the library directorthey made a big deal of not putting the whole $18,000 (levy increase) to the director,” he said, referring to library officials. And referencing the director’s current salary, he continued, “I see in this latest budget amendment that it’s (salary) still $72,000, which shows an $18,000 increase.”

City Budget and Finance Officer Becky Tobin interjected that the director who was there during 2021-22 levy discussions is no longer there. He left.

“So now they are advertising for a new director,” she said. “My understanding was their intent all along was to get the salary up to a point that they would be able to get more competent people to apply for the position. I’ve not seen it advertised, so I don’t know what the salary range is.”

Concern over how the library board would spend the proposed levy increase first was raised last year by Alderman Ric Brereton, who insisted that he wanted to see the library’s new budget.

Porter said April 5 he believed “what to do about the library” should be put on an upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting agenda, after final approval of the city budget.

“City council should have more say,” he said. “Attorney (Mike) Drella said we can’t change their budget, that we have to approve it as submitted. I don’t know if we should split the library off into its own entity, or if we should absorb it into the city, so we have more control of the budget. I think we should discuss it.”

Chamberlain’s response was, “OK, we should do that.”

During the January meeting Drella addressed the question of whether council could deny a tax levy request made by the library board.

He said, “No,” and quoted an area of state statutes as being “the one that kind of kicks us in the teeth. Section 5 of Article 3 specifically states that city government, or village government, is required to levy the amount submitted by the library board.”

He added there was no case law out there to support the city using its Home Rule powers to circumvent statute in that regard. Belvidere’s population is more than 25,000 and therefore has Home Rule powers.

City council reorganized May 3, as a result of the April 6 election, with a new mayor, two new aldermen and three incumbent aldermen who were returned to office. Porter, who was re-elected without opposition, was one of those taking the oath of office for another four-year term.

The library levy discussion item was not on the April 26 Committee of the Whole meeting agenda. The next committee meeting will be May 10.

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