It cost the Des Plaines Public Library almost $50,000 in legal fees, staff time, and other expenses to make major operational changes last year because of late property tax payments from the county.
The amount was announced last week when the library answered a three-question survey sent by Cook County Commissioner Dan Patlak, who is asking various taxing bodies how they are affected by delayed billing. Board members criticized Cook County for the late payments, saying every other county in the state sends the money on time.
“Do we calculate aggravation and stress as well,” said trustee Jennifer Tsalapatanis of the expenses. “Do we put a dollar amount on it?”
Last year, the late payments forced the library to use its $1.7 million reserve fund to pay bills and salaries. Then, fearing the library would run out of money, the board approved two separate back-up plans — one that would close the facility for six weeks and another that would lay off 70 percent of the staff and halt 13 services.
Meanwhile, material purchases and building projects were cut and staff worked with various vendors to renegotiate payments. Though the library also asked the city to borrow as much as $1.5 million, the money wasn’t needed because payments came in throughout December.
Recalculating the budget and various services took from July to December, costing $40,000, library officials said. Director Holly Sorenson said she spent at least 15 hours a month on the changes, while department heads spent more than 10 hours a month planning and cutting orders. She added the previous director, Sandra Norlin, also spent time reworking the budget, which wasn’t factored into staff costs.
The library also spent another $4,500 in attorney fees and lost $1,800 when the money in the reserve fund went toward bills and didn’t accrue interest.
Had the loan been necessary, that would have cost an additional $12,500 in interest and other bank fees, officials said.
Library officials said they were happy to fill out the survey and commended Patlak. They added they didn’t know if the city had received the same questionnaire.