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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

Library hours at risk, chief says

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has cut hours and services because of reduced state funding. Unless voters approve a 1-mill, four-year operating levy on the ballot next month, the library system could even go to a five-day schedule, Director Clyde Scoles said yesterday during a taping of The Editors television program.

Lucas County Children Services has a budget surplus, but this year, its costs exceed revenues - which could add up to a $4 million deficit within three years unless voters approve a 1-mill, five-year replacement operating levy, Executive Director Dean Sparks said.

Both men discussed their levy requests and their budgets with Thomas Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade, and Marilou Johanek of The Blade editorial board.

The Editors will be broadcast at 8:30 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

The library system has lost several million dollars the last 31/2 years as funding from the state library fund - once considered sacrosanct - has been frozen, Mr. Scoles said.

“What we've seen is a very slow dismantling of our library system piece by piece,” he said.

The library gets 75 percent of its income from the state fund. The system has eliminated Sunday hours, bought fewer books, frozen hiring, and deferred all but emergency facility repairs.

A failed levy could mean a five-day, instead of six-day, schedule and further cuts to book buying, already reduced by 50 percent, Mr. Scoles said.

The children services 1-mill levy will replace a 1.25-mill levy. The agency initially sought renewal of the expiring levy, but pared its request when Lucas County commissioners questioned the agency's $31 million reserve.

Mr. Sparks said the surplus is the result of expenses budgeted but not spent and of reduced office and management costs. But the reserve was $2 million in 1997, and funding this year is unchanging while the agency will spend $1.5 million more than it collects. If that pattern continues, the agency could face a significant deficit in several years.

“So we're trying to do long-term responsible fiscal planning for an organization so in the next levy cycle, which will be 2006 for us, that we don't have to come back and say now we need a significant increase,” Mr. Sparks said.

Reports of child abuse and neglect have increased 30 percent since 1997, he said.

The levies would generate about $7.8 million a year each and, according to the Lucas County auditor's office, each would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30.63 a year.



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