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County Library Levy To Be On Fall Ballot

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Portage County – The Portage County District Library appeared before the County Commissioners recently to ask that a 1 mill, five-year operating levy be placed before the voters on the November ballot. The Library does not receive any money from the County but must have its proposed budget approved by a governmental body. The Library’s service area is defined by multiple school districts in Portage County so, by law, the County Commissioners are the taxing authority for the library system. As Library representatives reported to the Commissioners, state funding represents about 95 percent of the Library’s revenue and that funding has declined about 30 percent over the past ten years. The Library does not receive any local tax monies.
“The state has been chipping away at our funding since 2001,” stated Cecilia Swanson, PCDL director. “We’ve tightened our belts and made economies for ten years, to the point that we aren’t open enough hours and aren’t buying enough new materials to meet the needs of our communities. We are operating at 1996 funding levels. Not only do books cost more nowadays, many of the services we provide did not exist in 1996, like online research databases and downloadable audio and e-books. Because it’s new technology, these types of services are expensive. A 1 mill levy will bring it about $2.4 million, accounting for inflation that should give us about the same spending power we had in 2001 so we can restore hours, purchase more new materials and make branch improvements like we used to years ago.”
In 2009, the Public Library Fund took its biggest cut from the state. At that time, there was fear that some branches might be closed. Instead, the Board of Trustees decided it would be better to reduce hours at all branches. Over the past ten years, hours of operation across the county system have been cut about 53 percent.
Board President, Betty Clapp, noted, “PCDL has operated on declining funds to the point that our ability to provide the type of service needed for our area has been severely hampered. At a time when many people need library resources more than ever, we hope residents will think beyond their own use of the library and commit to the needs of the greater community. As someone told me recently, ‘I don’t use the library often, but I want it to be there for me when I need it.’”
“The Board knows that this is a tough time to ask residents for more money, but we have made all the cuts in personnel, hours and purchases that we can possibly make,” continued Clapp. “For some, the library is their connection to the Internet, government, social services and the job market, and the need for those services continues. The library is still the only access for many people.”
“We want to be open more hours for our patrons,” said Swanson. “There are probably people who have stopped using the library because we are not open as much as we used to be. Those are the people I’m most concerned for because we are the only option for many of them.”
Portage County District Library has branch locations in Aurora, Garrettsville, Randolph, Streetsboro and Windham. For information about library hours, materials or programs, visit the PCDL web site at www.portagelibrary.org.