Libraries may be on ballot
The Southwest Public Libraries (SPL) Board of Trustees met in special session on June 25 to discuss options in the event that a proposal to slash $200 million from the Public Library Fund by Governor Ted Strickland is passed by the Ohio General Assembly.
A cut of this magnitude would erase 50 percent of SPL's funding. Funding would go from a 2008 level of $4 million to a 2010 projected level of $2 million. SPL receives 95 percent of its funding from the state of Ohio and is totally reliant on that funding, as are 70 percent of all public libraries in Ohio.
The trustees met to agree on a contingency plan in the event the cuts become a reality. SPL has joined all public libraries in Ohio in forcefully rejecting Strickland's proposal and pointing out that under the current funding formula, public libraries have already experienced a 20 percent decline in funding due to declining state tax revenues attributable to the weak economy.
The trustees looked at three options for operating its two locations; the Grove City Library and the Westland Area Library in the Lincoln Village Shopping Center. Those options were as follows:
•Close one of the facilities completely
•Close each facility for six months at a time
•Operate each facility three days per week, one shift per day, with one crew of employees
After discussion, the trustees decided that to be fair to the entire district that the last option would be adopted in the event of massive cuts from the state.
Library Director Mark Shaw noted SPL has about $550,000 in annual fixed expenses and after covering those expenses there would not be enough resources to operate more than one facility at a time. In addition, children's programming would have to be eliminated, the Outreach Department which delivers library materials to the homebound would be abolished, and purchases of new library materials would be severely curtailed.
"We certainly hope it doesn't come to this" said Shaw.
After discussing the ramifications of a 50 percent cut in funding, the trustees decided to take a precautionary first step in asking the voters to approve a 1-mill operating levy at the November general election. State law requires the library to officially ask the Franklin County Auditor to certify how much would be collected by the levy. This is not approval of a levy request, but merely the first step.
The trustees want to keep all options open in the event the state of Ohio follows through with Governor Strickland's plan. The trustees and administration will be closely following the progress of the conference committee over the next few days.
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