Ohio libraries fight against budget cut that takes effect July 1

Libraries have been providing more services during the pandemic.
Published: May. 25, 2021 at 12:17 AM EDT|Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 12:57 PM EDT
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PERRYSBURG, Ohio (WTVG) - Nearly 8.5 million Ohioans have a library card, but that card may give access to just a little bit less if budget cuts go into effect as scheduled.

Ohio’s public libraries consistently have some of the highest numbers of visitors compared to other states, per the Ohio Library Council.

“There’s so many resources that you have at your fingertips. It’s free. You can’t beat that,” says Jonathon Siebenaler.

Siebenaler is a Perrysburg resident, teacher, father, and library fan. He brings his son to the library, where the 2-year-old recently got his first library card.

When the pandemic came to Ohio, libraries stepped up. They provided curbside service, ramped up their WiFi access, and now provide testing kits and vaccination scheduling.

In 2020, voters passed 15 of 16 library levies statewide. Wood County’s got 73% of the vote.

“That means that the constituents, they love their library,” says Janel Haas, director of Perrysburg’s Way Public Library.

Despite offering more services and having rising costs, libraries are facing a budget cut in Columbus. Currently, they receive 1.7% of Ohio’s General Revenue Fund each month. On July 1, that will automatically go down to 1.66%.

While a third of a percent may not seem like a lot, when the Public Library Fund was created in 2008, it got 2.22%. Libraries are also legally forbidden from receiving income from local sales tax, local income tax, or casino revenue.

The library fund is the sole funding source for 20% of Ohio’s libraries. At Way, it makes up 48% of the budget.

“It’s mildly ironic that they’re asking more of us, which we’re fine with, we’re up to the challenge, just please don’t take our money away,” says Haas.

This cut will take place automatically, but lawmakers could choose to stop it. Governor DeWine didn’t in his budget proposal, nor did the House in their version. Now the last chance to stop the cut is in the Senate.

Libraries are warning that budget-slashing could mean fewer books, services, and community events.

“I don’t really like that because then you won’t be able to read more of what you like and people will hardly come to the libraries,” says 13-year-old Perrysburg resident Riley Kollarik.

“It’s that third place,” says Haas. “You’re not at work, you’re not at home, you might be at the library.”

In a statement sent to 13abc, Gov. DeWine’s office said:

Learn more about the library’s fight to maintain its funding on the Ohio Library Council’s website.

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