Formerly staff writer for the Danville, Illinois, Commercial-News, she was editor of the Georgetown News and its two subsidiaries, the Catlin Courier and the Westville News, and served a resident internship with the Illinois State Register, She holds an M.A. degree in Public Affairs reporting from Sangamon State University.

How small, public libraries can get equalization aid

More money for Georgetown's library

MANY OF THE public libraries in Illinois could use more money. These libraries may apply for equalization aid through the office of the secretary of state. The way in which one community, Georgetown, responded to the financial needs of its library by applying for equalization aid provides a guide for other communities in similar situations.

Naomi Dietkus, new librarian for the Georgetown public library, had made a list of the needs of the library in accordance with the library board's request. She was deeply discouraged when she matched the list of needs against the usual annual funding.

Couldn't afford card index
Georgetown had a recorded population of 3,984 in the 1970 census and property assessed at $5,848,095. Yet, that same year the city library received only $3,157.97 for its total operation. This amounted to 79 cents per capita or .054 cents for every $100 on property at the assessed valuation.

When the board next met there was much discussion of how to keep the spending within the budget and still maintain a respectable institution. Dolores Wasko, president-elect of the board, spoke for all when she noted the obvious lacks in the library and observed that "unless we have a card index we really don't have a library. We just have a collection of books."

Overlook outside funds
Large city libraries with professional staffs are well informed about sources for funds. It is the small library with volunteer help or a staff without professional training that is likely to overlook these sources. The sources are often ignored because the boards and staffs feel it is too complicated to fulfill the funding requirements of outside sources.

Fortunately, one board member at Georgetown scanned a piece of correspondence that brought a partial solution to the question of "Where do we get funds?" The form was Application For Equalization Aid which is routinely sent out by the secretary of state to libraries which are supported by tax levies.

Illinois has provision
Public Act 76-645 establishes equalization aid for libraries and outlines its provisions. Under this act, 73 communities received a total of $165,000 in the fiscal year which ended on June 30. The act requires that the library asking for aid must tax the citizens at least at the minimum rate of .06 per cent, that is six cents for every $100 of property at its assessed value. Since the library tax levy for Georgetown had been .054 per cent, it had to be raised .006 per cent. This meant a homeowner with $40,000 property assessed at one half its cash value would have his annual library tax raised from $10.80 to $12.00.

Met the requirements
In order to get the increased levy, the library board had to submit a budget proposal to the city council asking for enough funds to make the levy at least the minimum .06 per cent. A budget proposal for a small library is not difficult to construct. It is simply a listing of proposed expenditures which are necessary to the operation of a library. These include wages, social security, maintenance of the property, utilities, insurance, supplies, legal notices and, of course, the purchase of books, papers and periodicals.

When the city fathers of Georgetown approved the application for the tax levy increase, all that was required was some paperwork and a couple of trips to Danville, the county seat. Census figures are obtained from the latest U.S. census data, and the county clerk is required to fill in and to certify the property value and the current tax levy. The state statute allows a maximum .15 per cent library levy without a referendum and a maximum .40 levy with a referendum. No matter what per cent rate the town levies the state computes for the purpose of the grant the per capita assessment at .06 per cent. As long as this assessment yields less than $1.50 per capita the state will make up the difference between this figure and $1.50.

Finally has a card file
In the three years since the first application for aid was made, the Georgetown public library has received equalization grants from $2,000 to almost $2,600 annually. For Georgetown these grants mean that the library has been able to free other funds for remodeling, steel shelves, and some equipment. The board was able to give the librarian a larger wage. Both the quantity and quality of the books have improved. Where the shelves used to be filled with out-dated and little read fiction, there are now some much needed reference books. Patrons don't have to wait until one can be delivered from some other library in the system. And a 33-year-old dream has become a reality. All the books are marked and completely catalogued in a new card file which occupies a conspicuous spot directly in line with the front door. 

September 1975 / Illinois Issues / 267

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