Library’s fund renewal on Tuesday ballot

A levy renewal projected to bring the Wood County District Public Library nearly $1 million per year will be on the ballot Tuesday Nov. 4.

The levy was introduced in 2010 as state financial support of public libraries was decreasing.

“The state had to make a lot of hard choices,” said Michael Penrod, director of the WCDPL. “I’m not blaming the state; it’s just a reality of the situation we’re in.”

With less state support, the WCDPL had to cut hours, buy books only with donations and were not able to hire replacements for the staff who chose to leave, Penrod said.

The library asked for a five-year, 0.8 mill property tax. [One mill is equal to one tenth of one percent].

“The community overwhelmingly supported [the levy],” Penrod said.

About 58 percent of people voted for the levy and about 42 percent voted against it, according to the Wood County Board of Elections website.

The levy renewal is for the same rate, 0.8 mill, and for six years instead of five like the original levy.

The change in length is so that the levy will be on the ballot again in 2020, a presidential election year, rather than the off-year of 2019, Penrod said. The library would prefer to have the levy on the ballot when there will be higher voter turnout.

The levy is expected to bring in $979,000 yearly, Penrod said.

Last year, the levy accounted for 42 percent of the library’s funding and 53 percent of funds came from the state, Penrod said. Fines and fees accounted for two percent, while three percent came from the WCDPL Foundation and the Friends of the Library.

The WCDPL used to be 98 percent state-funded, Penrod said.

The WCDPL levy is one of 33 library levies that will be on ballots across Ohio on Tuesday. Eight of those levies are new, while 25 are renewals, said Doug Evans, executive director of the Ohio Library Council [OLC].

As of May 2014, 175 libraries are partly funded by levies, Evans said. Of Ohio’s 251 public libraries, 30 percent rely solely on state funds.

In 2004, 70 percent of libraries operated only on state funding.

The effects of Ohio’s “general decline in economy” include less state funding for libraries, Evans said. The decrease has been “a fairly precipitous drop.”

In 2008, the state provided about $450 million to public libraries. This year, funding was about the same as it was in 1996, Evans said.

Libraries received $338.4 million in 1996, according to the OLC website.

Libraries whose levies failed have had to cut staff and cut benefits for staff, Evans said. In a few locations, they’ve had to close branches of the library.

If the WCDPL levy passes and state funding remains the same, the WCDPL will be fine for the next six years, Penrod said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Penrod said. “We need folks to actually go out and vote.”​