Ohio Libraries To Seek New Funds In November Election
The Greene County Public Library is one of several dozen Ohio library systems asking voters for money this November election, as libraries around the state become increasingly dependent on money from local property taxes.
Library levies are generally pretty popular, probably becauselibraries are overwhelmingly popular with Ohio residents.
“We actually have 8.9 million library card holders in the state of Ohio,” says Michelle Francis with the Ohio Library Council. “That’s roughly over 75 percent of the population.”
But changes in the funding formula as well as overall tax cuts at the state level have left a lot of library budgets flat even as demand grows.
“Unfortunately right now, our libraries are receiving about the same amount of state funding that they received in 1996,” Francis says.
Libraries are turning to local voters; since 2004, the number of library systems that depend on local support has gone from 74 to 178.
In Greene County, local funding has been part of the formula for quite a while, but public library head Karl Colon, who also volunteers with the levy committee, says instability from the state means the library can’t plan ahead. He says it’s seen about $1.3 million in cuts for each of the last few years.
“That really starts to add up after a while,” says Colon.
Colon says in 2010 they reduced their hours by 18 percent, and staffing has also been reduced through attrition. At the same time, the workload at the Greene County Public Library has increased, and technology and internet have created growing costs.
The library is asking for a 9/10-mill increase and renewal of its previous five-year levy. Greene County is one of 12 Ohio libraries asking local voters for new or additional funds November 4.
Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.