Greene County library levy to go on Nov. ballot

If passed, the continuing levy would generate about $6.7 million, according to the Greene County Auditor’s Office, and cost county taxpayers $59.05 per $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

Without the levy, the county library is projecting an estimated $3.2 million deficit in 2016.

In 2008, during the economic downtown, state funding for libraries took a “dramatic fall,” said Karl Colón, the Greene County Public Library executive director. And while the nation’s economy has since showed signs of recovery, Colón said state library funding has not experienced a similar rebound.

State funding for public libraries is currently 1.66 percent of the state general revenue fund compared to 2.22 percent in 2008, according to data from the Ohio Library Council.

The council has been working to try to get the public library share of state general revenue funds back to the 2008 level, according to Michelle Francis, the Ohio Library Council government and legal services director.

“When times are good, libraries get more,” Colón said. “When times are bad, libraries get less.”

The Greene County Public Library has lost more than $1 million in state funding since 2008, according to county data. In 2008, the county received $5.3 million compared to $4.1 million in 2013.

As a result, the county library system cut back on expenses. Staff was decreased about 15 percent from 146 full- and part-time employees to 124.

Library hours were also cut, by about 16 percent, from 20,904 hours in 2007 to 17,628 in 2010, according to library data.

The state public library funding accounts for about half of the county library’s budget, according to Colón.

According to data from the Ohio Library Council, a professional association which represents the interests of public libraries around the state, the number of public libraries that rely on taxpayer funds has more than doubled over a ten year period. In 2004, 72 libraries were funded through local levies compared to 178 in 2014.

“We do see a lot of strong support at the local level in most cases for public libraries,” Francis said. “We only have one or two that aren’t able to pass a levy.”

Flo Thompson, a Beavercreek resident and founder of Tax Busters, said she would vote for the 1-mill renewal, but was opposed to the additional millage.

“I don’t feel the people can take up the slack for what the state has cut,” she said. “If the state’s having trouble, they have bills to pay so they’re trying to generate money for that. People have bills to pay and they can’t pick up the slack from the state cuts.”

There are concerns that over time, library levies could be competing with schools, municipal or emergency services levies on the ballot.

“Public libraries don’t have the ability to do a sales tax or an income tax,” Francis said. “We’re not like the counties or cities. We don’t have that ability. Our two options are either state funding or a local property tax money.”

Dayton Metro Library relies on a levy to fund half of its $28 million operating budget.

“The reality of that is those (state) dollars have been shrinking since 2000,” said Tim Kambitsch, the Dayton Metro Library executive director.

As state funding continues to shrink, local levies allow quality services to continue, he added.

“State funding will be the biggest challenge to sustain as we move forward,” Kambitsch said.

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