Public library pursues 1-mill levy on ballot for needed improvements

The library bought the Cortland land near the schools five years ago.
WARREN -- The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library wants county commissioners to place a continuing 1-mill additional levy on November's ballot.
The estimated $2.4 million annually it would generate would let the library restore its materials budget, pay off debts, acquire a new Bookmobile, upgrade computers and resume Sunday hours, said Robert Briell, the director for the past 22 years.
Also, it would allow the library's board to "seriously consider" plans for a bigger branch in Cortland. The current branch at 212 N. High St. is 4,000 square feet and was built in 1983; a 10,000-square-foot facility is desired.
The library bought four acres on Wakefield Drive five years ago for $235,000, then sold one acre to a car dealership for $80,000. The Wakefield site is perfectly situated between the Lakeview middle and high schools, Briell noted.
Also possible, he said, is a branch in Southington or Champion, where there is population growth. Such ventures into new areas usually have the library renting a space for five years to gauge its success, he explained. No decision has been made.
Current levy
Right now the library gets financial support from a 0.4-mill levy in effect for 10 years, generating $768,000 annually. It also gets $3.8 million through the state Library Local Government Support Fund, which Briell said has remained mostly static since 1999 but stands to be decreased by 21 percent within five years under Gov. Bob Taft's budget plan.
"We haven't really had any increase in that in literally seven years," he said.
Also on the horizon, Briell said, is the state's eliminating collection of the tangible personal property tax -- which would eliminate $400,000 from the library's budget.
The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library operates six facilities including the main building in Warren. Branches are in Cortland, Howland, Liberty, Brookfield and Lordstown. These serve 161,000 of the county's 220,000 population.
The library has cut budgets, staff and hours in light of the static funding, the director said. Employees have been trimmed from 112 to 103 by attrition. For the first time, circulation has decreased the past two years as the library has held back on some material purchases like books and DVDs -- sometimes leaving people waiting to read a new best seller.
Voting information
Commissioners asked Briell and Ruth Christie, library clerk-treasurer, to provide more information on expenses and a breakdown of employee payroll.
If approved by commissioners, the new levy would be voted on only by people who are served by the county library and its branches. People in Niles, Girard, Kinsman, Newton Falls, Hubbard and Bristolville, which have their own libraries, would not vote.
It is possible that the library's board could decide to stop collecting the current 0.4-mill levy if the new 1-mill levy is passed by voters, Briell told commissioners Wednesday. That would depend "on how library finances fare in the future."
Passage of a new, additional levy would "just give everybody more of what they are looking for" from the library's facilities, he said.
Commissioners also have been approached by other boards about placing county levies before voters this fall, potentially crowding the ballot with issues. These could include the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, and Trumbull County Children Services.
"We're looking at all of them," Commissioner James Tsagaris said.

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