Municipal library boards and the municipalities that create them are usually on the very best of terms. Occasionally, however, an issue arises over a municipal library’s tax levy. The question is whether a municipality is required to incorporate the entire proposed library levy into the municipality’s own levy or whether it can modify (usually decrease) the library’s levy. This issue comes up only with respect to municipal libraries, not library districts that have their own independent power to levy real estate taxes.
A non-home rule municipality does not appear to have authority to modify the library board's levy so long as the amount of the levy is statutorily authorized. State law provides that a library board has the exclusive power to determine the amount of the levy to be passed by the corporate authorities of the municipality so long as the levy does not exceed the maximum power to levy available to the library. (75 ILCS 5/3-5)
A home rule municipality, on the other hand, may use its constitutional authority to decide whether it wants to extend its home rule power to its municipal library to allow the library to levy an amount that would otherwise exceed the library board’s statutory restraints (the tax cap). A library associated with a home rule municipality cannot require that the municipality share or extend its home rule powers if the municipality chooses not to do so.
As it stands today, the residents of a local library can rely on its library board to send to its municipality a valid request for an annual tax levy. For home rule municipalities, that levy can seek an amount which is above a library’s statutorily authorized levy. The home rule municipality can grant the request or reduce the size of the library levy to the maximum amount that could be levied in a non-home rule municipality. Since the local library’s levy is one part of the home rule municipality’s levy, and the home rule municipality has the power to authorize higher rates of tax than those allowable under the Local Library Act, the library may benefit from the home rule municipality’s powers in that respect.
Post Authored by Britt Isaly, Ancel Glink