by Kimber L. Fender
The Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
The Library has two primary sources of funding. About two-thirds of our funding comes from the State Public Library Fund, a set percentage of the General Revenue Fund reviewed every two years when the state adopts a new budget. This process concluded June 30 when Governor Kasich signed a budget that includes a modest increase in library funding for the first time in more than a decade. If the state budget estimates are correct, public libraries will receive about 4% more in state fiscal year 2014 and an additional 3% more in state fiscal year 2015.
This is wonderful news after years of steep declines that resulted in a more than 30% drop in state funding, and we appreciate the support our Hamilton County representatives and senators have shown for libraries.
The one million local property tax, so generously supported by Hamilton County voters in 2009, makes up the remaining third of our budget; just over $17 million. At a special meeting in June, the Library Board voted to place a one million renewal levy on the ballot this November. Their reason for doing so is simple — without the continuation of this funding we cannot afford to keep branches open, provide an up-to-date collection, offer programs for children and seniors, or keep our excellent staff. The renewal of our current levy would make all of this possible.
A few facts about the levy: first and most importantly, it won’t increase your taxes. We’re asking to renew the existing levy for the same millage amount. We are asking for the levy for the next 10 years. This gives us a funding stability that lets us plan for the future with some confidence that we will have sufficient funds to operate. The cost per month for a home valued at $100,000 is $2.63.
With more than half a million cardholders, 88% of the households in Hamilton County are using the Library’s services. In 2012, the number of items borrowed made us the seventh busiest library in the country. Our Main Library is a top downtown destination, second only to the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 attendance, and lends more items than any other main library in the country.
Beyond these big numbers are smaller but equally important accomplishments. Adults learn to read and use computers in our Adult Learning Center. Children eat lunch at a Library when school’s out in the summer. Teachers get books to supplement their classroom lessons. Students get homework assistance after school at local branch libraries.
The modest increase in state funding is a first step toward stabilizing Library funding. We must now secure the levy funding, if we are to keep our Library strong.