July 29, 2014

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OBERLIN LIBRARY

1.5-mill levy maintains offerings

Issue 35
What: 1.5-mill operating levy
Duration: Five years
How much it would raise: $296,000 a year

Purpose: To allow the library to continue its current level of service

Cost: The owner of a $100,000 home will pay $46 annually

Cindy Leise
The Chronicle-Telegram

OBERLIN — The Oberlin Public Library is seeking an additional 1.5 mill, five-year operating levy that would maintain services in the face of cutbacks from the state and an expected drop in revenue due to property re-evaluations.

At the current valuations, the new levy would bring in $296,000 a year, but there’s no firm word yet about how much tax revenue might drop when property values are reset this year, Library Director Darren McDonough said.

Property values in Lorain County are likely to drop between 5 percent and 10 percent this year when county Auditor Mark Stewart completes his reassessment of all the property in the county.

Last year, the 3.25 mills now on the tax rolls for the library brought in $584,532 — about 60 percent of its budget of $1.1 million, McDonough said.

When named library director in 2004, McDonough said the state share of operating costs was 60 percent, meaning that “we’ve gone from 60-40 one way to 60-40 the other way.”

A levy has never failed in the library’s history, and McDonough said he was hopeful this one will pass, too.

The library already has made some cuts by spending less on materials and not filling several job vacancies.

Julia Binder of The Citizens’ Committee for the Oberlin Public Library said she fears cuts in hours if the levy does not pass.

McDonough declined to speculate, saying he did not want to “blackmail” residents into voting for the levy by talking about cuts.

The last 0.25-mill levy passed in 2005 and took effect in 2007, he said.

Besides the main library, the money would support The Bridge, Oberlin’s community technology center across Main Street from the library.

With the poor economy, library use has increased with circulation up 6 percent over last year and computer use up 7 percent in the first half of 2009.

“When times are tough, people go to the library,” said Mary Van Nortwick, president of the Oberlin Public Library Board of Trustees. “They check out books and movies, polish their resumes, update their computer skills and search for jobs online,”

Last year, the Oberlin Public Library was open to serve the public for 3,224 hours and the Bridge for 2,912 hours.

Use of computers was particularly popular as the Bridge logged 19,051 hours on its terminals in the past year.

“We had long waiting lists for the summer technology camps for boys and girls,” said Stephanie Jones, director of the Bridge.

Various community groups used the library’s meeting rooms more than 500 times and patrons also took advantage of its collections of 10,000 DVDs and 8,000 audio books.

The annual cost of the levy would be less than a dollar a week for the owner of a $100,000 home. At the same time, the bond issued in 1990 to build the library will be retired and property owners will no longer support it through taxes.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245

or cleise@chroniclet.com.