A $7 million hit to Ohio libraries — part of Gov. John Kasich’s biennial budget proposal — is expected to hurt Herrick Memorial Library.
Libraries statewide receive money through the Public Library Fund, which is funded with 1.7 percent of the state’s General Revenue Fund.
Changes in Kasich’s budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 would cut that rate to 1.66 percent.
Herrick library director Janet Hollingsworth isn’t sure exactly how large a cut that would create in her state funding. But whatever the number, the hole will have to be patched with cash just passed by voters in November as part of a $284,000 per year levy.
Hollingsworth and other leadership from libraries across the area will travel to Columbus on March 29 to meet with state representatives Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), and Dan Ramos (D-Lorain).
“This would put us back down to where we were at two years ago,” said Hollingsworth. “The addition we added last year will keep us slightly above that but not by much.”
The economic recession that began in 2007 turned Herrick’s original levy into a way of just breaking even rather than an avenue to new funds. According to fiscal officer Joe Siekeres, the library has gone from receiving $391,595 in state aid in 2007 to $282,137 last year.
“One of the reasons we pushed so hard to get this last levy though is we knew it was going to be a new budget year,” said Hollingsworth. “We had heard the governor had some new projects in mind. Whenever someone wants to fund new projects, the money has to come from somewhere.”
She said the continued decline in funding makes so sense when Kasich also encourages libraries to take on e-government responsibilities and to act as “lifelong learning centers” where residents can hone their computer skills, find job and career-relates resources, and take online GED classes.
“We’re all shrugging our shoulders about that,” she said. “We’ve always acted as lifelong learning centers. We help people find jobs. We help them learn to navigate the Internet. We’ve taught new skills like our string art program. Someone can take that and turn in into a business eventually.”
Kasich and legislators seem to be out of touch with what libraries are actually doing, Hollingsworth said.
“The governor asks for all these reports from us about things like the amount of e-government we do,” she said. “We perform all of these functions with helping people file for unemployment and Social Security, and it’s things that government agencies should be doing. We take on the additional responsibilities and continue to see nothing but cuts.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.