The New Carlisle library received about $488,000 in 2015, making up its entire budget, Freeman said. Its counterpart in Clark County received about $4 million.
“It was entirely fair at the time but it’s been 12 years and we’re now at a serious disadvantage,” Freeman said.
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Freeman met with Clark County Public Library Director Sally Rizer earlier this year and asked to have the library board of trustees consider increasing New Carlisle’s share of the state funding. Under that proposal, the New Carlisle library would have received about $590,000 and Clark County would get about $3.9 million, Freeman said.
It would allow the New Carlisle library to extend its hours back to six days per week for the first time since 2009, hire at least three new staff members and maintain its purchasing budget, she said. It would be an increase of about 21 percent, while Clark County’s budget would be cut about 1.5 percent, she said.
The Clark County library board members declined, Rizer said, because they believe the split is fair.
“With the formulas libraries have used in other counties that do this, we’re actually giving them a little bit more than what the formula would say that New Carlisle should get,” Rizer said. “I realize the New Carlisle library does serve that community, but given everything statistic-wise, we’re giving them their fair share of the public share.”
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Freeman now must get the approval of the Clark County and Springfield city commissioners, as well as a majority of the remaining 19 city, township and village councils to increase its funding, according to state legislation, she said.
The Clark County Public Library system has a main library in downtown Springfield and four branches, including locations in South Charleston and Enon, while the New Carlisle Public Library has one main library.
A merger was discussed in 2005, Rizer said, but it didn’t happen. Neither board is interested in merging the libraries at this time, Freeman said.
The two directors are expected to have a meeting today with Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt to discuss the situation moving forward. Flax Wilt hopes to find an alternative solution to provide services to both organizations.
“It’s not a competition,” she said. “What I’m trying to avoid here is stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”
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The New Carlisle Public Library has been independent from the Clark County system since it opened in 1933. The library is currently a member of the Serving Every Ohioan library consortium, which provides access to more than 8 million titles, Freeman said.
As part of the consortium, the New Carlisle library can’t ask voters for a ballot issue because it has no taxing authority, she said.
After Ohio public library funding was cut 30 percent due to the recession in 2009, the New Carlisle Public Library laid off staff and reduced hours, including closing on Mondays. It’s now open Tuesday through Saturday.
The Clark County Public Library also cut its hours but then went back to six days per week after voters passed a permanent property tax levy in 2011 that generates about $1.6 million annually. It received about $2.8 million from its levy and other tax dollars, according to the state report.
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The New Carlisle library has about 12,000 cardholders and a circulation of about 123,000 items, Freeman said, serving a much larger area than just the city of New Carlisle. The Clark County Public Library had a total circulation of about 1.16 million items and about 91,500 borrowers.
“I’m open one or two days fewer per week than my counterparts and I’m holding my own in circulation numbers,” Freeman said. “Imagine what we could do if we were able to expand those services.”
The Clark County Public Library brought in about $6.9 million in total revenue in 2015 and spent about $5.6 million — meaning it saved about $1.3 million. Clark County’s main branch in downtown Springfield is nearing the completion of a $2.6 million renovation that included a new entrance and other updates, such as new restrooms and carpet.
“We experienced the same hard times that all public libraries in Ohio did,” Rizer said. “It was through cutbacks and savings that we’ve gotten ourselves on steady footing again. I don’t believe our levy money should be included as part of our income with our split with (New Carlisle).”
The New Carlisle library provides a great service and is used a lot, resident Chris Group said.
“My wife uses it four to five days per week so we donate to help them out,” Group said.
Increased hours would make it more convenient for the small community, resident Jen Loza said.
“There’s a few times I really needed to either fax papers or just go and get away and read and they weren’t open,” Loza said.
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By the numbers
$488,422: State funding received by the New Carlisle Public Library from state library funds in 2015.
$4,076,267: State funding received by the Clark County Public Library from state library funds in 2015.
$593,410: Proposed state funding to be received by the New Carlisle library through a change in a local split.
The Springfield News-Sun provides in-depth coverage of local government, including recent stories on medical marijuana in the community and plans to clean up the Tremont City Barrel Fill.