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Published: Wednesday, 4/28/2010

Wood County library system to seek operating levy


BOWLING GREEN - With nearly $1 million less to work with than in 2007, trustees with the Wood County District Public Library decided yesterday to ask voters to make up the difference.

Trustees voted unanimously to ask the county auditor to certify how much money would be generated annually from an 0.8-mill operating levy.

Library Director Elaine Paulette said preliminary estimates indicate such a measure would raise $1,036,000 a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 house $24.50 a year. The board probably would put the levy on the November ballot and ask voters to approve it for five years.

"If we hope to be the library we've been all these years, I think we need to think about an operating levy," Trustee Scott McEwen said in proposing the idea.

The operating levy would be the first in the library's history, although in 2000 voters approved a 25-year, 0.32-mill bond issue that raised $5 million for library renovations. The library, with its main location in Bowling Green and a small branch in Walbridge, relies solely on state funds for its operating budget, and that income has dropped dramatically in recent years.

The library's budget was $2.3 million in 2007, and its projected 2010 budget is $1.4 million. Ms. Paulette said that state funding is down 16.8 percent for the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 2009. The funding situation is not expected to return to pre-2007 levels until as late as 2016, if ever.

Trustee Chet Marcin said he believes the library "has demon-strated we have done what we could to live within our means" but that the cuts have taken a toll on the hours the library is open, the services that are offered, and the new materials that are available to users.

Board President Brian Paskvan outlined the current state of affairs: Hours at the main branch have been reduced to 54.8 a week from 67 and to 28 from 40 at Walbridge, with both libraries closed on Sundays. Material purchases are down 45 percent, equipment purchases have been cut 58 percent, staffing is down to 32 from 57 in 2007, and employees are paying more for their insurance and retirement.

"Pretty staggering stuff. There's nothing more to cut, folks," Mr. Paskvan said. "Otherwise you start getting rid of core staff and it really just gets ugly after that."

Libraries across the state are struggling, although those like the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and Perrysburg's Way Public Library, which have local operating levies, are less affected by the state cuts.

Toledo-Lucas County, which has cut hours, staff, and services in the last year, now gets 48.1 percent of its operating money from a voter-approved 2-mill levy and 43.4 percent from the state, according to Spokesman Rhonda Sewell.

The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library is making its first-ever request for operating dollars May 4, when county voters will be asked to approve a 0.5-mill, five-year levy to support the library. Jeff Winkle, library director, is to make a presentation on library financing and the levy request at 6 p.m. today at the main branch in downtown Findlay.

In Bowling Green, Ms. Paulette said she had been approached by the owner of the Cla-Zel Theatre, who offered to host benefit concerts for the library in exchange for allowing its patrons to use the library parking lots for special events on weekend nights.

"I thought it sounded like a great opportunity for the library and collaboration with the Cla-Zel," she said.

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