HAMMOND | The Hammond Public Library presented its case Monday to the Hammond City Council on a proposed $800,000 increase to its general fund budget for next year.
This year is the first time the library is coming before the City Council with its budget proposal because of a new requirement in state law, according to library administrators.
The proposal drew critique from City Controller Bobby Lendi, who said the the proposal would increase the property tax rate for the library system from 22 cents to 29 cents on each $100 of taxable property.
The library is attempting to raise the budget for its general fund from $2.8 million this year to $3.6 million in 2013, for a total budget of $4.8 million, according to the proposal.
“They are asking for 7 additional cents ... the 7 cents has to come from a taxing entity, and that will be us if we approve the budget,” Lendi said.
Cornell White, the library's financial analyst, responded to Lendi's comments by telling council members all the library wanted to do was use the "projected revenues” it should have in 2013.
“We're not going in and asking for taxpayers to have to pay more in taxes or anything of that nature,” library Director Rene L. Greenleaf said before the meeting. “We are just asking for the max of the levy that we have in the library.”
City Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, continually asked library officials to be clear in their presentation.
“Money is tight,” Higgs said. “Any indication something is coming from this body isn't going to happen.”
The City Council voted, 7-1, to move the budget proposal on an initial reading and set a public hearing for Sept. 24. City Councilman Mark Kalwinski, D-1st, voted against the motion with City Councilman Al Salinas, D-2nd, absent.
Kalwinski said as he understands, the library had to come before the City Council because of the amount of the proposed budget increase.
The law also requires the library to come before the council because its board is appointed and not elected.
“In their confusing way, they are asking for money from our pocket to help fund their pocket, and we don't have it,” Kalwinski said.
The City Council also set a second round of public hearings on budgets for the city, the Hammond Sanitary District and the Hammond Redevelopment Commission for Sept. 24 after residents aired concerns over the transparency of the process.