Libraries may lose some state funds

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Librarian clerk Michelle Markowski of Cortland checks out a book for a patron of the McKinley Memorial Library. Library systems in Trumbull County probably won’t lay off employees or reduce hours, but they face the real possibility of cutting, or at least reducing, some services if Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s two-year budget proposal stays as is.

WARREN — Library systems in Trumbull County probably won’t lay off employees or reduce hours, but they face the real possibility of cutting, or at least reducing, some services if Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s two-year budget proposal stays as is.

Some directors of the seven public library systems said on the chopping block would be programming that helps people find jobs and write resumes, and basic computer use — because a lot of their patrons don’t have internet access at home — if the state budget reduces public library dollars shared among Ohio counties from 1.7 to 1.66 percent.

Ohio’s public library fund is a revenue sharing fund that distributes money to each county, and then each county divides the funds based on agreements between the libraries.

The library fund is projected to disperse about $361.4 million for 2017, according to a December estimate from the Ohio Department of Taxation. Trumbull County would receive about $7.4 million this year, compared with $7 million in 2016, although the increase is based on inflated projections from the Ohio Department of Taxation’s December estimates, according to some library directors.

Michelle Alleman, director of the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles, said although the 1.66 percent is still just a proposal, she budgeted for this year using it as if it’s certain. The reduction means the library will receive about $40,000 less this year than last, when it received $775,951.

“We’re not planning on making any large financial commitments because there is a chance that the budget will go to 1.66 percent,” Alleman said. “We wouldn’t plan on hiring new staff or replacing computers if there’s a chance the funding will be cut.”

The director of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, James Wilkins, also said his 2017-18 budget is based on the lessened amount because the 1.7 percent received in 2016-17 was a temporary increase compared with the 1.66 percent of the 2014-15 budget.

The reduction for the library, which has five branch libraries around Trumbull County, would mean about $100,000 less from the $3.9 million the system received last year. That potentially means a reduction in computer programs and expenditures on equipment, Wilkins said.

“We didn’t increase the budget for this year because we just didn’t know what was going to happen,” Wilkins said.

The process in which libraries plan their budgets for the upcoming year is a multi-step process that is further complicated by the state operating on fiscal years, while the libraries operate on calendar years.

Libraries receive three reports through the year from the Trumbull County Auditor’s Office that project funds they will receive based on estimates from the Ohio Department of Taxation. Also, libraries are required to submit a temporary budget for the next year by Dec. 31. It stays in place until a permanent budget is OK’d by the auditor’s office by April 1.

“That’s why our budgets are so tricky,” said Kerry Reed, director of the Newton Falls Public Library. “It’s such a convoluted process.”

If the library fund is reduced, Reed said purchasing new materials would be put on hold for about a month, which should give them enough time to determine a better revenue picture before considering whether cuts are needed elsewhere. If the proposal stays as is, the library stands to lose $25,000. It received $462,784 last year.

Director Kimberly Garrett of the Kinsman Free Public Library said the library, because it is in a rural community, is used by many residents for its computer services — from job searches to printing airline tickets and pay stubs — because they do not have the Internet at home. The library had planned on new programs, like a book club and a technology instruction program, but these would have to be re-evaluated in light of a decrease in the library fund.

“A lot of patrons rely on using our computers and Internet to apply for jobs or search for jobs because they can’t do it at home,” Garrett said. “We are so grateful that the community supports the library.”


What local libraries receive

What local libraries received from Trumbull County’s $7 million in public library funds from the state in 2016:

• Bristol Public Library — $297,681

• Girard Free Library — $597,978

• Hubbard Public Library — $597,978

• Kinsman Free Public Library — $384,298

• McKinley Memorial Library, Niles — $775,951

• Newton Falls Public Library — $462,784

• Warren -Trumbull County Public Library — $3.9 million

SOURCE: Trumbull County Auditor’s Office