November 28, 2014

Elyria
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Library tax money to follow boundaries of school districts to Midview system

Chronicle File Graphic

Chronicle File Graphic

ELYRIA — The Grafton-Midview Public Library won in a tug-of-war between it and the Elyria Public Library over 2,000 patrons who are city residents but whose children attend Midview Schools.

A 2005 state tax law that deals with levy issues was the decider in determining the service areas of both libraries, effectively ending the dispute that has those residents paying taxes for both libraries.

Lyn Crouse, director of the Elyria Public Library System, said library officials recently learned the Grafton-Midview Public Library’s 2010 levy would not change even if the boundary lines were redrawn, meaning its tax would take precedence.

As such, Elyria’s only remedy was to withdraw its request to include precincts 3A, 3E and 5B in its service area so the double taxation problem would go away.

Crouse said Elyria would have, in all likelihood, lost the fight and ran past the deadline for getting on the May 2014 ballot, which it has to do if it wants any shot at continuing local support prior to the expiration of its five-year operating levy.

“We have lost the disputed area, but not because of Senate Bill 321,” Crouse said. “Levy law says that levy funds follow the school district. When Grafton-Midview put a levy on in 2010, they had to follow the school district boundaries, and it seems that we will have to do the same.”

Grafton Library officials did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The dispute focused on double taxation and the state’s push to end such occurrences across the state. It enacted a new law in 2012 to handle such issues. Since then, the state library board has been pegged with the responsibility of defining boundaries and eliminating double taxation wherever it exists.

Locally, the Elyria and Grafton-Midview libraries have been double-taxing three precincts in Elyria for years and, because neither wanted to give up the area, it seemed as if the issue was to be decided by the state. The library boundaries overlap, with the Elyria Library taxing the entire city of Elyria and Grafton-Midview levying the Midview school district, which bleeds into Elyria thanks to an annexation many years ago.

But the obscure tax law brought a resolution to the situation.

Bill Morris, governmental affairs coordinator for the state library board, said based on the opinion of an attorney from the state Department of Taxation, Elyria came to the decision on its own to pull its original boundary definition request and submit a second request to define both the Elyria and Keystone local school districts as its service area. Elyria’s request will likely be approved today when the state library board meets.

“Since (Elyria) wants to be on the ballot in May, they knew it was best to resolve the boundary issue as soon as possible,” Morris said. “It’s a complicated issue. We were working on another library boundary issue when we came across the tax levy law. It seemed to certainly have some bearing on all of this.”

As a result of the change, the Elyria Library will have its work cut out in May when it goes to the ballot.

Although its current levy is a five-year operating levy that will be due for renewal, Crouse said the library will have to promote the levy — one covering both Elyria and Keystone — as a new levy with a millage high enough to sustain the entire service area.

Voters in precincts 3A, 3E and 5B in Elyria will not see the Elyria library issue on their ballot, but voters in all of Elyria and Penfield townships as well as a portion of Carlisle Township will for the first time.

“Now, we have to ask everyone to pay their fair share, even those communities that have been using library services at no cost,” Crouse said. “Ohio is a wonderful state in the fact that as long as you have a permanent address, you can get a library card for any library in the state regardless to where your tax dollars go, but we have to levy a tax in our entire service area.”

Bill McFadden, the Elyria library’s board president, said it’s too soon to know what next year’s ballot issue will look like.

“We just know we will likely be on the ballot and have to work very hard to get a levy passed,” he said. “The current levy represents 50 percent of our operating revenue, and it will be absolutely essential that we pass the levy.”

Crouse said she is very excited about garnering new supporters in Penfield, Elyria and Carlisle townships.

“We have always considered them to be our patrons with either the West River Road North branch or the Keystone-LaGrange Community Library,” she said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.