Library Levy Landslides Make History in Ohio

Article excerpt

Election Day in Ohio reaped an unprecedented show of library support: Voters approved 29 of the 37 library levies November 3 placed on ballots by cash-starved public libraries reeling from 11th-hour cuts to state aid for FY2010-12, with one more apparently passing but close enough to require a recount. The impressive display translates into a reprieve for 81% of the library systems that turned to Ohioans in the wake of an 11% loss in state aid (AL, Aug./Sept., p. 19). Coupled with declining state-tax revenues, libraries are enduring budget cuts of 20%-25%, the Ohio Library Council explained November 4.

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Among the most dramatic victories was the passage with a 72% yes vote of the first-ever millage for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, whose state support has shrunk from $53 million in 2000 to some $38 million in 2009, according to ABC affiliate WCPO-TV.

"Throughout the levy campaign and into the voting booth, Hamilton County residents have shown tremendous support for the library and the levy," PLCHC Executive Director Kim Fender stated November 4. "We have been overwhelmed and deeply touched by the support of Hamilton County voters, especially in these difficult economic times."

The 1.0-mill levy will generate $100 million over five years for Cincinnati-area libraries, costing owners of a $100,000 home about $30 annually and averting the need to close as many as 20 branches and lay off up to 250 staff members.

The victory was especially sweet given the active campaigning of an opposition group calling itself COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) to defeat the initiative. COAST spokesperson Tom Brinkman accused the library system in an October 28 Cincinnati Enquirer editorial of "show[ing] a disregard of our tax dollars" by "overspending for guest speakers, free book giveaways, billboards, and media campaigns" as well as failing to "look for additional revenue streams" such as charging $1 per audiovisual loan. …