Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'm a Taxpayer!!!

I'm a Taxpayer!!

We get scores of complaints from non-taxpayers about having to pay for cards. One peeved patron want-to-be actually put his "thoughts" into writing. This is a good example of how these exchanges normally go. Grammatical and spelling errors were left in place.


I went to your Library a few days ago hoping to get cards for my family. I was told I would have to pay a extravagant fee. I find this insulting I pay taxes to kankakee. My mailing address is kankakee. My children attend Kankakee school. I pay taxes to kankakee county. we shop in kankakee and I work in kankakee . but because my family live in rural area we are not able to receive your services . This is insulting to me. Especially when probably 70 percent or better of your members don't pay any kind of tax to support the library. I didn't think a public library was a institution for only those who can pay but I guess I am wrong. As a working member of society I do work for the state of illinois at shapiro center. I guess this is just another education for me only Filthy Rich or Dirt Poor Matter in this sick society while working class will have to carry them on there backs.


Dear Mr. ----------,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us about your concerns about the Kankakee Public Library fees. Unfortunately, you are suffering from a very common misperception about how our library is funded and how the fees are determined for cards. Let me outline for you our funding sources. We are a department of the City of Kankakee, just as is the Police Department, Fire Department and Department of Public Works. As a City department, our funding comes almost exclusively from the property taxes of people who live inside the City limits. The post office causes untold amount of confusion by assigning Kankakee addresses to individuals such as you who do not live in the City of Kankakee. This is done for the efficient delivery of mail, not for the determination of who pays property taxes. The remaining small portion of our funding comes from various grants, fees, fines and donations. The other taxing bodies you mentioned, Kankakee School District 111, Kankakee County, and Illinois state sales taxes contribute nothing monetarily to the running of the library.

Another misconception is that the people who live in the City of Kankakee get a "free" library card. This is completely untrue. Citizens within the city limits are forced to pay an average of $150 on their property tax bill for library service each year, whether they actually come into the library to get their card or not. A person living outside the City, having paid nothing for library service, has the option of paying the $150 fee to get service or declining library service and paying nothing. Either way, the service must be paid for. The $150 you were asked to pay is set by Illinois law, being the average amount a Kankakee tax payer pays for library support. This number was not arrived at arbitrarily.

As for your assertion that 70% of our members do not pay any kind of tax, I can assure you that 100% of our library card holders pay property taxes either directly on a home or business they own in the City, or as a renter of an apartment or home where tax costs are passed on to them via higher rents. You may believe that the poor and homeless who you see in the library have cards and don't pay taxes. Again, this is wrong. We do have Salvation Army residents and other poor or homeless in our library reading our materials, but unless they can show a permanent address where they receive mail, (the Salvation Army address does not satisfy this requirement), these individuals do not have a library card and so can not check out materials. Anyone is welcome to come in the library and use our collection. However, being in the library does not equal having a library card.

The hard working people of the City of Kankakee struggle to pay ever increasing property taxes in difficult economic times so that they can support one of the premier public libraries in the State of Illinois. The least we can do is require outside visitors to pay an equal amount for the same privileges.

If you have any more questions please feel free to contact me,

Stephen J. Bertrand
Assistant Director
Kankakee Public Library
201 East Merchant Street
Kankakee IL 60901


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did explain how the library is funded, but several other issues could have been addressed as well, that could have provided a more upbeat tone to the letter:

1. The library offers a wide variety of services for which no library card is required. Book discussions, author events, summer reading programs for children and teens--none of these require a library card. Coming into our building and using our resources here also does not require a library card.

2. The fee for the card can be paid on a quarterly basis and that could alleviate the "sticker shock." Was this explained to the patron? Was he/she offered the option of a student card? Were comparisons made between the cost of a library card and the cost of several bestsellers? With the average cost of hardcover books being $25.00, if you read more than 6 books a year, you're still saving money purchasing a library card.

3. Encourage the patron to approach the mayor and other officials in their community about providing library service. It is indeed unfortunate that there are whole communities in Illinois that do not have library service, but a motivated citizen can impress upon his/her public officials the necessity of such a service. Perhaps an agreement could be reached with that community to provide service in some way.

$150.00 is indeed a daunting number, particularly in today's economic climate, but...this is a door that should not be permanently closed.

July 03, 2008 2:29 PM  

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