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Libraries prepare for cuts
State budget cuts are still up in the air, but leaders of the Southwest Public Libraries (SPL) are preparing for the worst.
Governor Ted Strickland’s budget proposal would cut approximately $200 million from the Public Library Fund. According to the governor’s Web site, the cuts would help address the $3.2 billion budget gap without raising taxes on Ohio citizens and businesses.
An interim budget has been passed. A vote is expected by July 14.
According to Mark Shaw, director of SPL, the library receives 95 percent of its funding from the state of Ohio. He explained the proposed budget reductions would erase 50 percent of SPL’s funding.
Last year, SPL’s budget was just over $4 million. If the budget is approved by the General Assembly, 2010 funding levels would be around $2 million.
The board of trustees for the Grove City Library and the Westland Area Library decided that if the budget is approved, they would operate each facility three days per week, one shift per day with one crew of employees. Children’s programming and the Outreach Department would be eliminated and new purchases would be severely cut.
“We certainly hope it doesn’t come to this,” Shaw stated.
If the budget is passed, the cuts would be implemented by Aug. 3.
On the governor’s Web site, Strickland posted, “Our public libraries serve an important role in the lives of Ohio children and adults. The funding reduction faced by our libraries is one that will also be experienced by state government programs across the board.”
Strickland added even during this tough economic time, it is important libraries remain an outlet for citizens to gather and utilize resources.
“That’s why my framework commits $531 million in funding for our libraries over the next biennium.”
The SPL trustees also decided to take the first step towards a November levy attempt. They have asked the Franklin County Auditor to certify how much would be collected from a 1-mill tax levy. This is not an approval of a levy; it would just get the process moving.
In a press release by SPL, it stated, “The SPL board wants to keep all its options open in the event the state of Ohio follows through with Governor Strickland’s plan to cut library funding by 50 percent.”
SPL has already been hit by a 20 percent drop in state funding for 2009. In June, the trustees voted to cut $100,000 from the library budget (in addition to the $100,000 cut in March) and eliminate employee health care. The library board also reduced hours of operation and required employees to take furlough days.
SPL is the only library system in Franklin County without local support in tax dollars.
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