Lucas County households pay more than $60 annually in property taxes for complete access to their busy library system.
But Michigan residents have the same access to the Main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and its 18 branches for less than half the cost.
In an attempt to even things up, the library system has decided to hike the fees out-of-state residents pay for a library card. The rate of $25 a year, which has been in effect since 1991, will jump to $75 at the start of 2005.
"I don't think the plan is to generate income. I think the plan is to make it so that those living out of state pay the same as those who live within Lucas County," Chris Kozak, a library spokesman, said.
Talk of raising out-of-state fees originally came about as a solution to generate dollars when the library's revenue was down, Mr. Kozak admitted. But the final decision to raise the fees was more about fairness than funds.
This year, Lucas County residents owning a $100,000 home pay $61.16 in taxes dedicated to the library. That amount will drop to $45.63 in January, 2006, when the library's 10-year construction levy approved by voters in 1995 falls off the tax rolls.
Library officials aren't sure how much money will be generated through the increased fees. But they already have decided that all additional money brought in will be added to the library system's approximately $5 million materials budget.
The majority of the library's approximately 5,500 out-of-state card holders are from Michigan.
Michele Burberniak lives about a mile from the system's Sylvania branch, but over the Michigan line. She said her family paid for a membership several years ago because it was more convenient to drive into Ohio from Whiteford Township than over to the Bedford Township branch of the Monroe County Library System. She questioned whether an increase in fees would make that longer drive worth it.
"I think for $75 people may decide to drive somewhere else," she said.
For more than a year, the library in Bedford Township has been in a temporary location while the building is renovated. Township voters approved a 0.75-mill property tax levy in August, 2002, to pay for the $3 million expansion of their branch library, the busiest in the county's system.
Mr. Kozak said that Toledo-Lucas County Public Library board members delayed the start of the increased fees to give Bedford a chance to finish its library.
Out-of-state residents who don't own property or work in Monroe County pay a one-time $100 fee to use the library. In other Ohio cities, such as Cleveland and Columbus, out-of-state residents cannot get library cards, although special borrowing privileges can be arranged.
In Cincinnati, out-of-state residents pay a one-time $15 fee to gain library privileges at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. A spokesman added that Hamilton County residents currently are not paying any additional levies for their library.
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