MAHONING COUNTY Libraries adapt to counter income-tax drop

The new $3.4 million Austintown branch is to open next month.
POLAND -- Library funding from the state income tax is declining under sluggish economic conditions, the director of the public library system says.
"Basically, there's unemployment and income tax is down. And when the income tax is down, our revenue to libraries is down. The projection I'm hearing from the state is that it's going to get worse," Carleton Sears, library director, told the board of trustees of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.
Sears said at the board's Thursday meeting that he was leaving some staff positions vacant and is trying to avoid having to cut library hours or lay off staff.
The numbers
Under this financial cloud, the board adopted a revised general-fund budget for this year of $11,422,116 -- down $853,749 from the previously adopted budget of $12,275,865.
Most of that reduction consists of a drop in state income-tax revenue from the $10,732,164 that was estimated at the beginning of this year to $9,959,109, for a loss of $773,055.
The board also adopted a general-fund budget of $12,054,240 for next year after Sears urged a conservative approach. He based his reasoning on expected state income-tax revenue of $9,957,078, which is $885,906 less than the $10,842,984 the state originally expected.
Sears already has canceled a planned expansion of hours, reduced funding for buildings and repairs, and cut spending for a new computerized circulation and catalog system.
Other cutbacks under consideration are closing libraries on two December Sundays when usage tends to be low, a freeze on new staff positions and a slight reduction in the materials budget.
The library system also aims to raise money by raising meeting-room rental fees, renting space to Chapters Cafe at its new Poland branch and hiring Debbie Liptak as its new development director to explore alternative funding sources.
New branch
As the state puts the squeeze on operating funds, the system is preparing to open its new $3.4 million Austintown branch at 600 S. Raccoon Road next month. The Mahoning Avenue branch is tentatively scheduled to close Sept. 22, with the new branch tentatively opening the week of Oct. 7, Sears said.
Austintown will be without public-library service for about two weeks as books and other materials are moved.
The Mahoning Avenue building will be occupied by Access, a data services organization, which will move there from Canfield under a 10-year lease-purchase arrangement.
Access will pay $45,000 a year to the library system and the library system will pay Access $45,000 a year to have all libraries linked to the fiber-optic network Access will provide to local schools.

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