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LIBRARY

Watch now: $5.68 million awarded for Bloomington library project

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Bloomington Library new Olive Street entrance rendering

A rendering of the proposed Bloomington library project is shown. 

The Bloomington Public Library received a $5.68 million state grant to help fund its $22.8 million facility expansion.

BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Public Library is expected to adjust its proposed property tax rate increase after getting a $5.68 million grant for a $22.8 million expansion.

"I'm just beyond excited for what this means for our community," Library Director Jeanne Hamilton said Monday. "I think this really gains confidence in the project and it will be something that really allows us to improve our library services to the community."

The funding is from the state Public Library Construction Act Grant and is contingent on the BPL receiving more than $15 million in matching funds by the end of the state's fiscal year.

The library plans to match the grant with 20-year general obligation bonds awarded through the city. In November, the BPL proposed a property tax rate of .31695%, a .05378% increase over the previous year, which would allow it to pay off the bonds with an annual $1.1 million payment.

With the new grant funding, the library can lower the proposed property tax rate increase to .3040%, said Hamilton. Library officials provided more details during a Monday evening Bloomington City Council meeting.

The BPL facility expansion of its 44-year-old building has been in the works for nearly two decades. The last renovations were in 2006 and improved building accessibility. Proposed updates are intended to help the library better serve the city's growing population.

Over the years, the library has scaled back planned updates in an effort to get the project off the ground. It had plans to contribute $5.8 million for the project, including around $1.7 million in donations and grants.

With the added funding, the library's contribution is raised to around $9.78 million, said Hamilton.

Facility upgrades include a permanent drive-up window, three large meeting spaces, two large rooms for children's programming, a computer lab, a hands-on STEAM "maker" lab, two recording/podcast studios, and additional study spaces.

After The Pantagraph's deadline, the Bloomington City Council held a previously scheduled public hearing regarding the property tax rate increase. The hearing is required by state law if there is a 5% aggregate increase in the total levy over the previous year.

The library's total 2021 proposed tax levy is a 23.15%, or $1.15 million increase, over the previous year.

The city and public library's combined 2021 proposed property tax levy is $27,038,169 for a combined rate of 1.3568%. Under the new rate, the owner of an average $100,000 home would see a tax increase of $18 on their bill starting in May.

Bloomington elected officials will take a vote to officially adopt the property tax levy during the city council's Dec. 13 meeting.

Sierra Henry's 5 most memorable stories of 2021

Another crazy year has flown by and I would be lying if I said choosing my top five most memorable stories was easy. These lists, which we do every year in December, are always difficult. How can I sum up all the good, hard work we do in just five stories?

This is my second year with The Pantagraph, so I decided to choose five in-depth pieces that spoke to me and our readers. Some are heart-wrenching, such as the memories Jelani Day's friends shared with me. Others are more light hearted, like my story looking at Steak 'n Shake and all the fun Bloomington-Normal residents had eating at the restaurant when it was in its heyday. 

There are many reasons I am proud to work for this organization. Our work is not only a reflection of ourselves as reporters, but of this community. I hope everyone can continue enjoying all the great work we do every day to provide quality local journalism to our readers. Thank you to all of our subscribers and readers for the support.

Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.

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