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Frequently Asked Questions



Plainfield's population is 40,000 people, why do you need such a big building?

The Plainfield Library District serves more than the Village of Plainfield. The District serves parts of Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Crest Hill and Joliet; and serves over 75,000 people (2006 Census data)

How much will it cost?

This referendum is asking for an overall limiting rate increase rather than a building bond and small limiting rate increase, as was last year's referenda. The renovation and expansion will cost $25M; this is $14M less in building bonds than the 2016 plan. See the taxes section for an explanation about the limiting rate increase.

Click here to view a projected cost estimate for the renovation and addition.

How is this different from the last plan?

The March 2016 plan involved 2 ballot questions: a referendum for a building bond of $39M and a 3 cent operating rate increase. This plan is 1 question, raising the limiting rate to allow for the purchase of building bonds and to operate a larger building. The 2016 plan called for a brand new 72,000 square foot building; this plan is calling for a renovation and addition to the current building for a total of 50,000 square feet.

Why is the new referendum cost to taxpayers not that much different from the last referendum?

The 2016 plan called for 2 referenda: one for new construction for a building triple the size of the current one for a cost of $39M for a building bond, then a second small (3 cent) limiting rate increase. The larger, new building would have offered efficiences and savings in staffing that renovating the existing building and adding on to it will not offer. Therefore, operating costs will be higher. The new plan calls for planned savings each year to accommodate future growth and capital replacement costs. The new plan is $14M less in building costs and bonds, which carry interest.

What is an operating cost and why do you need it?

The Library's operating budget covers staffing, materials,  supplies, etc.; everything needed to operate a building. It does not pay for capital expenditures such as replacement of mechanicals, furniture, renovation, etc.; that money comes from a special reserve fund that needs to be built up to pay for large expenditures like a new boiler. The Plainfield Library has been operating so leanly that it has not been possible to save enough money to cover those massive expenses.

Why is the proposed construction cost greater than that of any other municipal building?

Libraries have very specific requirements for building that include accounting for the considerable weight of books. Other added costs that were not part of the 2016 plan include the added expense of moving twice and a longer construction period due to renovating the current building and putting on an addition while remaining open in the building.

Why can't the Library tap into the existing Village budget? Is the Village benefiting financially from expensing this to the tax payers?

The Plainfield Library District is a completely separate taxing body from the Village. The Village of Plainfield and the Library District budgets are separate. Other communities, like Naperville and Joliet, have municipal libraries, which do function as departments of the city.

What measures has the Library taken since the failed referendum in 2016?

After the referendum failed, the Board of Trustees implemented several cost-saving measures for the new fiscal year which began in July 2016. These included a hiring freeze that has left the Library with 200+ hours per week of unfilled staff time which has led to program cuts (book groups, services to children with special needs), no Sunday hours, the programming budget cut being cut in half, and the elmination of fine-free programs such as Food for Fines.

If Plainfield’s grown that much, that means you have proportionally that much more money. Why don’t you have money saved to expand?

While the Library District’s revenues have increased as a result of growth, the cost of providing Library services has also grown.  The net result is that there are very limited surplus funds available to be “saved” for expansion.

The Library District notes that revenues are “capped” from year to year by the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL).  PTELL caps year to year revenue increases at 5% or the CPI (Consumer Price Index), whichever is lower.  In recent years, the CPI has hovered at around 1-2% thereby limiting additional revenues.

In order to fund an expansion plan and future operations, the tax rate limited by PTELL must be increased by voter approval.

For more information on PTELL:


How much will my taxes go up?

The anticipated increase is $18.40 per $1,000.00 of total property taxes paid. So, If you pay $5000/year, your taxes will go up $92.00. If you pay $10,000/year, your taxes will go up $184.00/year. Calculate what your taxes would go up to using the calculator:

What percentage of my tax bill belongs to the Library?

The Plainfield Library District currently accounts for 2.12% of your total tax bill. If the referendum passes, the Library will account for 3.96% of your tax bill. (Click on the chart to download the Excel Spreadsheet.)

What is the Library tax rate?

The Library District's tax rate is .2021%. The proposed plan would increase the tax rate to .3775%. This chart will show you how the Plainfield Library compares to other libraries in the area and in Chicagoland.  Click to download the Tax Rate Comparison Chart (.xlsx)


What is the tax rate of other area libraries?

Plainfield Library has one of the lowest taxes rates in the Chicagoland area and has not had a tax rate increase since the building bond was passed in 1990. The Fountaindale Library's rate, for example, is .584% and Oswego Library's rate is .301%. To see a comprehensive list of the tax rates, budgets and population size of libraries in the extended Chicago area, click to download the Tax Rate Comparison Chart (.xlsx)

 We said no new taxes so why is the Library going to Referendum?   

The Plainfield Library District is not able to continue to operate with the same tax rate it has had for the past 27 years; the needs of this community dictate a larger, expanded library and a larger operating budget to serve the community of 75,000+ people. The District's projected population is over 90,000 by 2019, when the building would be completed.

 What happens if the referendum doesn't pass in April?  

The Board of Trustees and management team are creating a contingency plan. This involves a study of all building systems, identifying what improvements are needed immediately and which items can wait. A new operating budget will be implemented, calling for monies to be set aside for these capital improvements. In order to do this, material and programming budgets will be cut further and there may be additional cuts to hours and staffing.

Taxes were raised to pay for the current library. When do those bonds retire?

Bonds for the 1990 build were retired in 2010.

How many times has the Library put on a referendum?

The Library went to referendum in 1989, 1990, 1993, 2009 and 2016. The 1990 referendum for a building bond was successful. Here's a brief history of the district:

1925 A bequest from the Nimmons family for $25,000 was given to establish a tax-supported village library, which opens in 1926 in a 750 square foot building on Lockport Street

1941 The Village Library opens a 2700 square foot building on Illinois Street with a bequest from the McNester family and the remainder of the original bequest

1977 Plainfield Township creates a tax-supported library to serve residents outside of the Village of Plainfield boundaries and contracts with area libraries for service

1981 Plainfield Township Library opens a 900 square foot branch inside Grand Prairie Elementary School

1988 Voters approve merger of the Village Library and Township Library to form Plainfield Public Library District

1989 Referendum for remodel and addition to Illinois Street building, totaling 30,000 square feet is unsuccessful

1990 Branch location in Grand Prairie Elementary is damaged by tornado; school district does not renew the lease as they need the space to expand

1990 $3.5M referendum for a building bond is passed to build out 13,500 of the 27,000 square feet remodel/addition

1993 Tax rate increase referendum to operate the larger building is unsuccessful

1994 Hours cut, staff cut, budget frozen

1997 Lower level completed and hours are restored, using proceeds of sale of farm property donated to the Library in 1954

2003 Joint-use facility with Park District explored but stalled due to developer project not coming to fruition

2004 Interior remodel paid for with developers' fees

2009 $30M referendum to expand to 72,000 square feet and add a 30,000 square foot branch is unsuccessful

2010 Building bonds from 1990 referendum were paid off

2011 Library embarks on “Design on a Dime” interior re-design in order to gain more space for public needs

2012 After community feedback, the Board chose to not place a referendum question on the fall ballot

2012 An assessment was done of the aging facility; capital reserve fund used to address the immediate and short-term identified needs

2016 $39M referendum for a 72,000 square foot new building and small operating rate increase was unsuccessful; operating budget cut, Sunday hours cut, hiring freeze


How big will it be?

The revised plan calls for 50,000 square feet: renovation of the current 27,160 square foot building and a 23,00 square foot addition.

Why not put a branch on X street or near Y?

The Library Board has studied the option of branches and decided early on that the most cost-efficient way to proceed at this time is to concentrate on improving the one building that is in the geographic center of this district. A branch/satelitte facility will absolutely be considered again in the future.

Why was the downtown location selected?

The Library currently sits at the geographic center of the district. After the 2016 plan was rejected, the Board of Trustees asked the community for feedback. The feedback said to stay downtown and scale back the scope of the design.

Why does Plainfield need a bigger library?

The current building does not meet the contemporary needs of the communtity due to lack of space, flexibility, or modern conveniences ( drive-up return,  social spaces, teen area, variety of meeting rooms, etc.). In addition to providing access to printed materials and technology, libraries offer vibrant social and cultural experiences. Space limitations result in difficult service decisions because we simply cannot provide everything you need in our current building.  The Library District's population is projected to be over 90,000 by the time an expanded building is completed.



What will the question look like on the ballot?

Shall the extension limitation under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for the Plainfield Public Library District, Will and Kendall Counties, Illinois, be increased from the lesser of 5% or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index over the prior levy year to 88.5% per year for the 2017 levy year?
Supplemental Information Required with the Ballot:
(1) For the 2017 levy year the approximate amount of the additional tax
extendable against property containing a single family residence and having
a fair market value at the time of the referendum of $100,000 is estimated to be $58.47.
Please note that, per Illinois statute, the calculations are based on 2015 property values and do not factor in homestead exemptions.

What does the question mean in plain language?

This question, whose language is mandated by Illinois law, allows the Library to raise the PTELL tax cap, to levy for a higher amount of money. The Library will be raising the limiting rate tax rate from .2021% to .3775% which is an 88.5% increase. This increase in the limiting rate will allow the Library to use the General/Operating Fund to sell alternate revenue bonds for $25M to construct the addition and do the necessary renovation.  The higher limiting rate will allow the Library to fully operate the larger building and will allow the Library to save money for future capital expenditures and for additional growth.



There aren't enough spaces available for the programs I want to attend. Why are the programs I want always full?

There are multiple reasons for programs being full--one reason is our space constraints--we can only fit a certain number of people in our meeting rooms. Another reason is that presenters have limits on the number of attendees, particularly for programs that have supplies, such as craft or cooking programs. A third reason is that the quantity of programs has been cut due to a loss in staff, who are responsible for planning, organizing and conducting programs.

Why can't you use the rooms at the schools for programs?

The library does programming in the mornings, when the schools are in session as well as after school and in the evenings, when the schools' spaces are in high demand. In addition, many of the programs hosted by the library require A-V set-ups (DVD player, laptop, projector, microphone) as well as a nearby kitchen, all things that are not always readily available in the multipurpose rooms or gymnasiums. In addition, the library's heaviest programming time is during the summer when those facilities are not available for use.

Or why can't you partner with the school libraries for after school and weekends?

The public library serves all ages - from birth through senior (adult) services, while a school library is focused on the specific curriculum of the grades of that school. ​In addition, while the public library open access for all, school safety regulations do not allow for random members of the public to be inside public schools.

What about parking? Will the new library mean there will be less parking?

The Village of Plainfield conducted a downtown parking study in the fall of 2016 and concluded there is adequate parking downtown and that in fact, the Library/Village parking lot is underutilized. While some spaces will be used for the addition, the Library is under contract to purchase property on Route 59 to accommodate the expanded Library's parking needs. The Village is expanding the Des Plaines Street parking lot (one block west) with an additional 32 spaces by mid-July 2017. View the Village Parking Study:



When will the new building open?

Construction of the addition would begin in spring of 2018 and take up to two years to complete. Because the current building will be retained, construction will be phased in, requiring collections and everything in the current building to move into the addition once constructed. When the renovation is complete, the Library will move everything into its final position. The Library intends to remain open during the project, however, there will be times when it will be closed for safety reasons.

What will the new library look like?

The Library Board of Trustees and architects at Nagle Hartray are developing a concept for the expanded library in keeping with the character of downtown and the residential neighborhood. Full specification plans will be developed after a successful referendum and will involve public input.  Renderings will be available in mid-February on the website:

What will the new library have that the current library doesn't?
  • 5X the number of study room/collaboration spaces
  • A classroom space for teaching technology to all ages
  • Dedicated quiet space
  • Dedicated active learning space for early childhood literacy
  • 3X the number of meeting rooms for expanded library programs, as well as space for the community to use for business meetings, tutoring, collaborative projects
  • A drive-up return so you do not have exit your vehicle to return items
  • Expanded hours of service including year-round Sundays
Plainfield Area Public Library

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