PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
In June, I promised to answer 3 questions in this column relating to the library levy that will appear on the Nov. 2 election ballot in Jefferson County.
On June 27, I discussed the library system; how it is formed, how it is funded, and the services that it provides to the citizens of Jefferson County.
On Aug. 1, I explained why the library system is asking for a levy for the first time since it was formed in 1899.
Today, my task is to show what the library system will do with the funds from this levy.
The short answer is that the library levy on the Nov ballot will replace most of the 31 percent cut that was made by the State of Ohio in the Public Library Fund, the sole means of support for Ohio’s public libraries.
Since 1986, the Public Library Fund has received a dedicated portion of Ohio’s state income tax, which was distributed monthly to the 251 public library districts in Ohio.
Beginning in 2002, the fund was frozen with small reductions made in the Fund to help balance the state budget.
In 2008, the Public Library Fund was switched to a percentage of all state revenues since the state income tax was being reduced in 5 steps.
In 2009, the Governor recommended a 50 percent cut in the Public Library Fund, which was lowered to a 31 percent cut by the legislature, taking effect in Aug 2009.
The library’s budget had been shrinking since 2002 with earlier cuts and the freeze, the 2009 cut was addressed with 13 layoffs and 2 retirements. Reduction in hours, services, and purchases resulted in a new 2010 operating budget.
The plan for the levy is to replace funds to return the library system to its 2008 budget. We have explored ways of operating the library with a smaller budget, and have succeeded.
In 2002, the library system had 80 employees, and today we have 57.
The levy will allow the restoration of Sunday hours at the Schiappa Branch, and Wednesdays at the Toronto Branch and the Brilliant Branch.
The library materials budget will be restored to allow the purchase of books, DVDs, books-on-CD, e-books, and databases.
Our levy is one of 35 library issues on the Nov. ballot around Ohio. This is an all-time record number of library issues to appear on the ballot in Ohio, for a total of nearly 100 library issues in the past three elections.
Libraries have no other option under Ohio Law for a budget shortfall.
The decision to place a levy on the Nov. ballot was not taken lightly by the Library Board.
We had many suggestions for raising additional funds, and have followed up on many of those ideas. Many people have donated new books to the library.
We have taken advantage of volunteers to perform specific tasks.
We have changed our operations to utilize the most efficient methods to serve the public.
In the midst of these funding issues, we are busier than ever meeting the requests and needs of the public who utilize public libraries.
The decision belongs to you, on the future course of your public libraries.