PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Governor John Kasich signed Amended Substitute House Bill 59 on the last day of June, approving the state biennial budget for the period of July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2015.
Over my career, I have watched the development of over twenty state budgets as funding levels for Ohio’s public libraries are established for the next two years.
Prior to 1986, the process typically had little impact on public library funding as the source of funding was an established tax form that required no action of the legislature.
After 1986, that tax was repealed and moved into the state income tax which had a dedicated fund from which public libraries were funded.
That operated without change until 1993, when the budget cycle froze and changed the fund percentage; and since then, each biennial state budget cycle has adjusted, froze, or unfroze the funding source.
The big change came in 2009 with a recommended 50 percent cut in the Public Library Fund, which was moderated to a 31 percent cut.
Governor Kasich’s budget recommendation announced in March had the Public Library Fund increasing 4 percent during the first year of the biennium, and 3 percent in the second year of the biennium.
That budget language was approved by both the Ohio House and Senate, and went to the Conference Committee for final language approval.
In the Conference Committee, major tax reform was introduced to the state budget focusing on lowering income tax revenue, and increasing sales tax revenue as well as other small revenue streams of the state.
The phrase that has emerged from Columbus is that this is “transitioning toward a system that relies more on consumption taxes and less on income taxes.”
At this point, libraries are unsure what these changes will do to the Public Library Fund, which receives its funds as a percentage of state revenues; as major changes have been made to those revenues.
The Office of Budget and Management will be re-estimating those numbers within the next 60 days as part of their standard estimate of the Public Library Fund.
I am thinking positively, that these changes will not significantly impact the earlier estimates for the Public Library Fund. I also appreciate that state officials understand the importance of public library funding, given the elimination of funding of the Local Government Funds for cities, counties, townships, and villages.
Public library funding underwent a major shift with the 2009 cuts under Governor Strickland, with more libraries seeking local property tax levies to replace state funds that were cut.
Today, more than 2/3 of Ohio’s libraries have supplemental local levies, compared to only 1/3 before 2009.
Another significant change in the current budget is the elimination of the state’s reimbursement to local governments of the 12.5 percent property tax roll back on new millage, dating back to 1976.
Current levies, including the Jefferson County Library Levy approved in 2010, will continue to receive the reimbursement, but any new levies will not.
Relating to our library system, I am pleased to report that thanks to the state budget, and the voters of Jefferson County, we will have a balanced budget for the next two years, and all of our libraries will continue to operate as is.
Like other local governments, the library system has reviewed our operations for potential cost savings and changes in operational efforts. We participated in a statewide study of cost-savings methods for libraries, and found that we are already doing what was recommended.
We are unique in that our county and Tuscarawas are the only remaining counties in SE Ohio that still operates a Bookmobile Program, but both of us are concentrating on small communities and senior housing site for reduced services.