Facts about the Crystal Lake Library

The following was prepared by Steve Willson:

Crystal Lake Library Facts

The Crystal Lake City Council recently voted to put a $30 million [advisory] referendum on the November ballot.

The referendum is for a brand new, bigger library.

Here are some facts that voters and taxpayers might find useful in making a decision about whether to vote “Yes” or “No”.

Crystal Lake Library

Crystal Lake Library

Fact 1: The current library building is physically sound.

The current library building is not dilapidated. It is not a fire hazard. It does not have any building code violations.

In short, it serves its purpose adequately.

However, the Library Board wants to tear down this perfectly good building because it is “obsolete”, by which they mean they want a newer, cooler library.

Ask yourself this question:

If they build a new library, will you borrow more books?

If not, then what is the real, tangible $30 million benefit to taxpayers?

Fact 2: Library use is in long-term decline, as the table below shows.
CL Libreary Circulation 7-16
With 20% less traffic and falling, you might wonder why we need a bigger building.

Fact 3: Almost 40% of the library’s circulation is DVDs and video games.
CL Library 2015 circulation 7-16
Fact 4: Last year it cost the library $6.50 to circulate ONE movie.

By next year, it could cost $7.50!

Here’s the calculation.

In fiscal year 2016, the Library spent $5.3 million. (Source: City of Crystal Lake Annual Budget, Fiscal Year 2017)

Divide $5.3 million by 819,846 items circulated, and the answer is $6.48.

If circulation slides only 5% next year, less than in prior years, then they will circulate about 779,000 items. The budget for next year is $5.9 million.

Do the division and the cost is $7.52.

If almost 40% of the library’s circulation is movies and video games, and if it costs the $6.50 to circulate the same movie RedBox circulates for $1.50 (and makes a profit), you might ask yourself:

When did our library become a money-losing, taxpayer-subsidized competitor for RedBox and NetFlix at more than FOUR OR FIVE TIMES THEIR COST?

Fact 5: The cost to circulate one item went up 44% between fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2016.

It cost the Library $4.50 to circulate one item in fiscal year 2014. The cost in fiscal year 2016 was 44% higher.

It is likely to be 67% higher in this fiscal year.

With the new bonds, the cost per item circulated could rise to over $10.00!

The annual cost of a $30 million bond issue at 2% is $1.9 million per year.

That works out to $2.41 per item circulated in fiscal 2017.

Add that to the projected cost per item in fiscal year 2017, and the total is $9.93.

With the projected additional operating cost of the new building, the total cost is over $10.00!

Fact 6: The fiscal year 2017 budget calls for an 11.7% increase in the Library’s budget. (Source: City of Crystal Lake Annual Budget, Fiscal Year 2017)

Fact 7: If the bond issue passes, the Library’s property taxes will be 72% higher than in fiscal year 2014.

As noted above, the annual payment on a $30 million, 20 year bond issue at 2% is $1.9 million per year.

The property tax for the library in fiscal year 2014 was $4.3 million.

The budgeted property tax levy for fiscal year 2017 is $5.5 million.

$1.9 million + $5.5 million is 72% HIGHER than just three years ago.

Fact 8: The Crystal Lake Library is more than twice as expensive per family as other area libraries.

Cl Library expenditures compared to Cary + Woodstock 7-16
Fact 9: The Crystal Lake Library employs many more people than other area libraries.
Cl Library employees compared to Cary + Wdstk 7-16
Fact 10: The construction budget for the new library is $400 per square foot.

The new library is to be 75,000 square feet. $30.1 million divided by 75,000 square feet is $400 per square foot. That is more than three times what businesses pay to build commercial space in Crystal Lake.


Facts about the Crystal Lake Library — 23 Comments

  1. Maybe we could get a breakdown on what websites were visited by CL Library computer terminals and how much time was spent on each site?

    What percentage of library square footage is taken up by meeting rooms?

    How many hours per week, on average, are those rooms used?

    Names of groups / people who have reserved those rooms?

    Do we have salary figures for CL Library employees?

  2. At least CL Library is going the referendum route.

    Algonquin is doing a few updates and blowing $7M.

    Completely fiscally irresponsible!

  3. The facts in this article command a change in Library management.

    The waste must end!

    At a minimum the headcount at the library needs to be cut in half and we need to start at the top.

  4. $30 million versus a $7 million
    Face lift is a REALLY big difference.

    Barrington library had a big redo a
    Few years ago (3 or4) & they actually
    Saved up the money from their regular
    Budget & did it without voter approval

    Alot of people were really ticked off
    BUT they DIDN’T tear the old one down
    & it didn’t cost the taxpayers more money.

  5. $30 million is not because there are estimates and exact plans, I believe, $30 million is because that is the statutory maximum tax rate cap amount.

  6. Doesn’t that mean that the Barrington Library Board overtaxed its citizens in order to accumulate the money?

  7. It appears that the Algonquin Library District has also overtaxed its residents in order to accumulate enough money to spend on improving its building.

  8. One more factor to consider, there is academic research to indicate that property tax rates are capitalized into home values.

    That is, America has property tax rate average around 1.4% of total home fair market value, and Crystal Lake has property tax rate around 4% of total home fair market value, and the difference (2.6%) will negatively affect Crystal Lake home values, year after year, by -2.6% relative to home values all over America.

    So if a home buyer in Crystal Lake 2016 needs to move to another place in 2026, the sales price that can be fetched for a home in CL will be 26% below the sales price of a (similarly valued in 2016) home elsewhere.

    CL voters: don’t just consider the additional property tax bill increase every year to come, consider the additional negative drag on your home value for every year to come.

  9. “Doesn’t that mean that the Barrington Library Board overtaxed its citizens in order to accumulate the money?”


    This is the same game our village board in Lakewood is playing to accumulate enough for their prestigious new village hall.

    Then they can sell it as

    “We may not need it. You may not want it. But at least it won’t cost you any more in taxes, so don’t sweat it…”

    All the while expecting the unsuspecting taxpayers will not realize that this is only because they have been grossly over-taxed for years.

  10. Cal, you definitely hit the nail on the head. “Finding” money is nothing other than overtaxing.

    It’s quite shocking that anyone would see it any other way.

    Saying that “we’ve been fiscally responsible and have saved for 7 years” basically means

    “we’ve been screwing you for 7 years and you didn’t even know about it you idiot”.

  11. Too bad Algonquin library was left off the metrics.

    Comparatively, they’ve been outrageous for a long time.

  12. Not backpedaling, but I’m guessing
    Barrington & Algonquin did the same

    They probably pushed up the library assessment for a few years & then declared, we have the money now .

    Yep, that stinks & don’t agree with
    That either.

    But, I don’t think the library & Crystal
    Lake city boards deserve pats on the
    Back, per se for putting forward this
    Referendum in the fall.

    This will be an expensive project tearing
    Down the old building & building a new

    The roll of a city library hss changed
    Dramatically in the last 10 years because
    We have so much info available electronically in our homes etc..

    This project is never going to be cost
    Effective for taxpayers & these boards
    Don’t really care about our opinion.

    If the referendum gets voted down
    Will the boards accept the taxpayers
    Wishes or do what Algonquin &
    Barrington have done ?

    This is a WANT by a FEW people
    NOT a NEED by the majority of
    OVERTAXED citizens

  13. I believe the advisory referendum is a beard.

    The board will use the result that fits their desires.

    If it passes, great for them, the board can pass a resolution and if citizens are unable to RAPIDLY assemble
    a petition to FORCE the library board to put a binding referendum on the ballot.

    If the advisory referendum fails, so what, the board can pass a resolution and if citizens are unable to RAPIDLY assemble a petition to FORCE the library board to put a binding referendum on the ballot.

  14. The referendum may fail then everyone’s guard will be down, maybe not checking board agendas or minutes as closely.

    They don’t realize how diligent Cal Skinner is at discovering and youmaking citizens aware of sneaky activity by boards and government!

  15. Check this out: https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/publications/documents/pls2011.pdf
    It’s a long report (from The Institute of Museum and Library Services), but you’ll get the gist of it on page 10.

    It points out that a library’s usage and circulation are related to public investment in the library.

    In fact, as Honest Abe suggested earlier:

    “If you build it, they will come.”

    The more we spend on them, the more people use them.

    I wonder if CL’s library’s seeming decline in usage is because the library so many say is “good enough” isn’t really good enough for more and more residents.

    There is an increasing number of CL library card holders using other community’s libraries.

  16. sell the land and give crystal lake residents free internet access with the proceeds !

    problem solved

  17. I am very much in favor of a new library…. many times I go to Algonquin or Cary library to get what I want in the hard book .

    As far as Red Box replacing library DVD selections, we take out ours from the library because they have some of the older ones plus they carry series of tv programs.

    We attend seminars on using IPhone and our Android tablets.

    Believe it or not, many people such as a lot of seniors have no internet, computers, etc.

    a larger library is needed and Crystal Lake deserves it.

    My taxes would increase a whopping $55 and I consider it money well spent!

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