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Libraries in the clear after levy passes
Southwest Public Library patrons will have to wait a little longer for things to get back to normal.
“Many cuts have been made over the past 10 years and it will take time to hire and train the staff necessary to expand the operating schedule,” said Amy Shaw, public information officer.
On Election Day, voters approved a 10-year, 1-mill operating levy for Southwest Public Libraries, which operates the Grove City Library and the Westland Library. It will generate $2.5 million in the first year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $2.55 per month or $30.63 a year.
According to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, the tax levy passed with a 58 percent vote.
The library system will not collect funds from the levy until February 2011, which is when customers will start to see expanded hours.
“It has been a stated goal throughout the campaign to restore the schedule that existed in July 2009 as quickly as possible,” said Shaw.
Shaw also explained the purchase of books, DVDs and other materials is a top priority for the library.
“With a 75 percent cut in materials, we have a lot of catching up to do.”
Southwest Public Libraries heavily relies on state funding. It makes up nearly 95 percent of the library budget. State funding for Southwest Public Libraries has decreased by a third since 2001. Almost all library services have been significantly cut and the Central Crossing branch was shut down.
In addition, the library staff has been nearly cut in half. Employees have not received a pay increase in 10 years. They have also been mandated to take unpaid furlough days.
“While we are still concerned with how the state budget will unfold in 2011, we are no longer under the threat of having to close one of our buildings and having a mass layoff of staff,” said Shaw.
According to Shaw, jobs will be added as the library increases its operating hours. The positions will be posted within the library system, so internal candidates would be interviewed first. If the positions go unfilled, the library can open the spots up to other applicants and those who have worked for Southwest Public Libraries in the past.
This was the eighth attempt at a tax levy for Southwest Public Libraries in the past two decades and the first successful outcome. It was the only library system in Franklin County without local tax support.
“I guess this was our time and the voters couldn’t envision the community without the library,” said Shaw.
The library had more than 100 volunteers who worked on the levy campaign.
“It’s time to get to work building up, instead of tearing down. That’s a great feeling,” said Shaw. “We’ll do our best with this funding to ensure quality library services for this community.”
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