Director's Message - Fall 2009

Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 9:24 am

Your voice was heard! Thanks to everyone who advocated for public libraries during the state budget process.

Now we need your help to set service priorities as we adjust to reduced state funding.

Late in the work day on Friday, June 19, Governor Ted Strickland proposed a 30 percent reduction in funding for public libraries as part of his framework to balance the state budget.

Ohio's public libraries receive 2.22 percent of the state's general tax revenue through the Public Library Fund (PLF). Since tax revenues have been steadily declining, money received from the PLF is expected to be down by 20 percent this year. When coupled with Governor Strickland's proposal, funding for Ohio public libraries through the PLF would have been reduced by approximately 50 percent.

As more than 60 percent of library systems in the state do not have local property tax levies and rely almost entirely on state funding for operating revenue, a funding loss of 50 percent would have been devastating to library service throughout the state. You did not let that happen!

On Saturday, June 20, libraries across the state launched the Save Ohio Libraries campaign. Library patrons were urged to tell the Governor and legislators about what public libraries mean to them. The Governor and state lawmakers were deluged with e-mails and phone calls from concerned citizens, who told compelling stories of how Ohio libraries have changed their lives. Hundreds of people attended rallies in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Portsmouth to show their support of libraries, and even more used social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to galvanize their friends and families to action. It was an amazing outpouring of support for libraries, and I'd like to thank everyone who participated.

This show of support resulted in a significantly lower cut to the PLF than was originally proposed. In the new budget, as signed by Governor Strickland on July 17, the funding formula for the PLF has been temporarily reduced to 1.97 percent of the general tax revenue (as opposed to the original 2.22 percent). This will result in an approximate 11 percent funding reduction over the next two years. When combined with declining tax revenue collection, the result is a projected 31 percent funding loss for those libraries without local levies. There's no way to tell exactly how much funding will be lost; if tax revenue continues to decline, funding reductions will increase.

Since the majority of funding for Worthington Libraries comes from two local property tax levies (a 2.2 mill levy passed in 1992 and a 2.6 mill levy passed in 2005), our situation is different. Thanks to this strong local community support, funding from the PLF accounted for 23 percent of the library's total revenue in 2008, and is projected to be 18 percent of total revenue in 2009. The anticipated loss of $910,572 in state funding in 2010 is 9.4 percent of projected total revenue.

Over the summer, we scrutinized every aspect of the library operation in order to reduce spending during the remainder of 2009. Our more difficult task is to develop a budget for 2010 that reflects the reductions in state revenue. The library board will seek extensive public input before making any significant changes in library service, because the reduction in revenue comes at a time when the libraries are being used more than ever. We need your feedback to help set priorities for library services and programs so that we can continue to squeeze as much library service as possible out of every tax dollar. We're counting on you to be part of a creative, resilient, resourceful response to the library's latest challenge.

— Meribah Mansfield

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