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MAHONING VALLEY Reduced funding concerns library officials



Published: Thu, July 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



New book purchases and magazine and newspaper subscriptions would be some of the first things cut.

By SHERRI L. SHAULIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- They knew it was coming, but it didn't soften the blow any.

Local library directors were aware last year that funding received through the Library and Local Government Support fund would be reduced again -- the second year in a row it's happened -- but it doesn't calm their concerns about what could happen from here.

"It's next year that I am really concerned about," said Carlton Sears, director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

The main library and 18 branches through the county lost about $750,000 from the fund this year, he said. Because the shortfall was anticipated, the library system plans to hold back on transferring money to building renovation funds, as well as put on hold plans to expand hours at some of the medium-size branches, he said.

Distribution of funds

Most libraries receive money based on a percentage of the state income tax, distributed through the Library and Local Government Support fund. The fund normally provides about $500 million annually for libraries throughout the state. The fund, however, has essentially stayed the same for the past two years because income tax collections have been down, which in turn means less money for the libraries.

"It can be a bit confusing, because our percentage has stayed the same," Sears said. But a percentage of a smaller number in turn becomes a smaller number itself, he added.

Jan Vaughn, public relations coordinator for the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, said the main library and six branches throughout the county are looking at a $300,000 deficit for 2002 and about $270,000 in 2003.

"We really haven't started to make any cuts, but we are keeping an eye on what happens in the future," she said.

If push comes to shove, however, the library system would look at its materials budget as a place to start, she added. Purchases of new books and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers would be the first place to cut corners.

Trying for status quo

Girard Free Library, another of the seven library systems in Trumbull County, is not cutting anything in the way of programs or services, and is trying to maintain status quo.

"We are not receiving any less money right now, but we are not getting any more," explained director Rose Ann Lubert. "We will maintain what we have, but we will not start anything new, especially in regards to special programs."

She noted that libraries in larger cities are being forced to make some drastic cuts -- the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is closing five of its 41 branches after getting $4.3 million less in state funding.

"This is actually the second year where the funding has been almost frozen," she said. "If it continues we will probably have to look at making some cuts."

As of now, the Columbiana Public Library can absorb the decrease in funds within its budget, but director Carol Cobbs said that could change.

"We are watching things very closely," she said. "We are just starting to do some figuring now on where we might be next year."

As one of seven libraries in Columbiana County, the Columbiana Public Library has seen an increase in circulation and patrons in the past two years, Cobbs said. While that is a good thing, if the trend continues, then more money will need to be spent on staffing to handle the increased traffic, which translates into more funding spent on payroll and health insurance.

"But for right now, we are doing OK," she said.

slshaulis@vindy.com




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