Elyria voters saved the library.
The 1.9-mill property tax levy that, had it failed, would have slashed 50 percent of the library’s operating budget was passed overwhelmingly by city voters, whose support lead to a strong victory for the Elyria Public Library System.
With so much on the line and funding nuances that couldn’t have made the campaign any tougher, the support of Elyria voters was important from the start.
“Obviously, Elyria as a whole is a bigger area and carries the most card holders,” said Library Director Lyn Crouse. “But we tried to run sort of a parallel campaign in Elyria, LaGrange and the townships. We had people working in all those area and had two campaign co-chairs.”
Still, the support in Elyria was undeniable.
A majority of voters in nearly every precinct in the city voted to pass the levy. The only precinct where more voters cast ballots against the library was in precinct 7E, and there, the margin was separated by only two votes. The 7th Ward is in the northern part of the city, near Lorain County Community College.
Ward 4 — the area around Midway Mall and the library’s West River Road branch — was where the strongest support was in Elyria. There, 1,000 voters favored the tax levy and just 479 voted against the tax levy.
The boundaries of the Elyria Public Library include both the Elyria and Keystone school districts. But instead of the two levies that separately funded the community libraries, Issue 3 is an all-encompassing levy meant to fund the entire system.
It raises taxes for LaGrange voters, where the Keystone-LaGrange Community Library is, but that did not stop them from passing the levy with 204 votes for the levy to 143 votes against.
The weakest support for Issue 3 was in the townships – Elyria, Penfield, Carlisle, Amherst and Pittsfield. Among the votes in the precincts that fall under the Elyria or Keystone school districts, the outcome was 1,068 votes for the levy and 1,244 votes against the levy.
“So much of this levy was new territory for us, which was primarily because of the change the state made and how we had to run one issue at one rate,” Crouse said. “It means now that we have to do a better job of building our support outside of Elyria. We are grateful for those who did vote for our levy because it means we will be able to continue to provide the programming and services our customers value.”
The Rev. Janet Long of Washington Avenue Christian Church, who co-chaired the campaign, said a small hint of the libraries support came more than a week ago when the campaign held a spaghetti fundraiser. More than 300 people showed up.
“I was at the door checking people in and they were from Wakeman, Oberlin, Sheffield and Elyria,” Bill McFadden, the Elyria library’s board president. “People from all over come out to support the levy.”
So how did the library do it – pass a levy that was an increase for voters in the Keystone area, a new tax for others all the while dealing with the fallout campaign literature incorrectly identifying what voters would pay?
“I don’t think it was anything easy,” Crouse said. “We did personal appearances, talking to as many groups and people as we could. Phone banking was a big way we pushed information. It was across the board, but we had no idea if any of it worked until the returns starting coming in.”
The continuous levy – which will not have to go back on the ballot ever – raises a little more than $2 million per year. It cost the owner of a $100,000 home $66.50 per year – a little less than $6 per month. Crouse said it will give the library stability in the coming years although that strength could be eroded if the state continues with its trend of cutting funding to libraries.
“But it was real important to us to have that base,” she said. “When you know your income stream, then you can budget and do long-term funding.”