The Southwest Public Libraries (SPL) Board of Trustees, at a special meeting on June 23, voted to place a 1-mill operating levy on the November ballot.
If passed, a 10-year, 1-mill levy would replace funds lost since 2001 and generate $2.5 million the first year. The cost to homeowners would be $30 annually or $2.55 per month for the owner of a home appraised at $100,000. Senior citizens eligible for the Homestead Exemption would pay less.
The library board is taking the action in response to severe budget cuts the library has experienced over several years, as a result of Ohio’s declining economy. Southwest Public Libraries currently receives 95 percent of its funding from the state of Ohio through the Public Library Fund. Since 2001, the library’s annual revenue has fallen from $4.5 million to just over $3 million. With inflation, funding is $2.5 million per year lower than it was in 2001.
Nearly all services offered by SPL have seen significant cuts or elimination. The Central Crossing Library was closed, outreach services curtailed, and operating hours were cut by one-third including the elimination of Sunday hours. Purchases of books, audio-visual materials, and databases have been reduced by 75 percent. There has also been a reduction in all programming, including education programming for children.
The library staff has been reduced by 35 percent; in all 65 positions have been cut. SPL has not given pay raises to employees in the last 10 years, and has instituted mandatory unpaid furlough days amounting to pay cuts of approximately 10 percent.
Additional funds from a levy would be used to revive library collections and buildings, and also restore services to the public that have been cut since 2001. Services to be restored include outreach service, longer hours, including Sunday hours, and more educational programs for children. Buildings will be repaired and library collections revived through the purchase of new books and audio-visual materials.