PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
I was hoping that 2008 would mark the first time in seven years that state budget issues would not be a topic of discussion.
I was wrong; fiscal year 2008 is proving to be no different than any year since 2001.
Several changes were made in Ohio's tax structure last year, meaning that it was difficult to estimate tax receipts for 2008.
Combined with the downturn in Ohio's economy, the stage was set for revenue shortfalls.
The best estimates place the shortfall between $ 700 million and $ 1.9 billion over the two-year state budget cycle.
What does the state budget have to do with the local library budget?
Ohio's public libraries have been funded by the State of Ohio through a local government fund since 1986 when the local intangibles tax was repealed and replaced by a dedicated portion of the state income tax.
Beginning January 1, that was amended to be a dedicated fund of all state revenues, instead of just the state income tax.
The State budget impacts libraries both directly and indirectly.
Indirectly, public libraries receive support services from the State Library of Ohio.
Last year, the Regional Library System that provided cooperative services to libraries in an 11 county area closed and was liquidated, forcing local libraries to assume those costs of the cooperative services.
The State Library of Ohio will have to absorb yet another budget cut as it goes from 135 staff members in 2000 to 80 staff today.
Again, the local library will have to do more with less.
More state agencies are shrinking services to the public, and instructing people to check with their local public library for forms and information.
We are quickly becoming the "last people agency" available for the public to access.
My greatest concern has been watching cooperative efforts disappear among libraries as budget years come and pass.
All 251 Ohio libraries are expending public monies to serve the public.
Those collective dollars allowed libraries to share resources, and wisely use those dollars for everyone's benefit.
One area that we have continued to successfully cooperate is with our automated catalog of library collections.
Instead of our own collection of 170,000 items, we are able to provide a database of 5.5 million items owned by 73 libraries across Ohio.
It is like having a metropolitan library at your fingertips, even in rural Ohio.