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Library board reimbursement check’s not in the mail, DeKalb mayor says

July 25, 2018 GMT

DeKALB – Residents living the the DeKalb Public Library’s district shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for that property tax levy rebate check the city council approved in March.

Once the library received the last $1.1 million in construction costs, the council approved abating its 2017 property tax levy to the 2014 rate, weeks after the board committed to sending nearly $1 million in refunds to residents whose taxes helped pay for the massive renovation of the library.

Mayor Jerry Smith, the library’s executive director, Emily Faulkner, and their lawyers sat down leading up to the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday. Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, the library’s legal counsel who works with the Ancel Glink firm, said issuing the refund via check could result in legal issues.

Faulkner said now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get the nearly $1 million back to the taxpayers.

“When my board found out this wasn’t going to be an option, legally, to pay back residents, they were disappointed,” she said. “Not returing the funds has never been part of the conversation, and it’s not on the table.”

Because anticipated state funding was frozen, the library’s board had to take out a $4.5 million loan to help fill out the funding for the $25.3 million renovation of the library, which opened in January 2016. It used taxpayer dollars to help pay off that loan, and those funds are what will eventually land back in those residents’ pockets, Faulkner said.

“It will be a dollar-for-dollar rebate,” she said. “This is just a question of the mechanics of refunding the money.”

Smith said there’s no doubt residents will get their rebate checks, but it’s a matter of figuring out the method of disbursement, which he said Krafthefer and City Attorney Dean Frieders are working through.

“That appears to be it, and I’m disappointed we’re not able to get this done as fast as we thought we could,” Smith said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the taxpayers to whom checks would be issues, will get their money back.”

Faulkner, is expected to give an update on the situation at the Aug. 13 city council meeting. She said aside from a check, the refund could come in the form of a tax abatement.

“There might be a third option I’m not aware of,” Faulkner said, “but I can’t imagine what that would be.”