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Tax renewal proper course for county’s library system



Published: Sun, August 16, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

Although the board of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County was reflecting the wishes of the county commissioners when it decided to seek renewal of the 1-mill county-wide levy rather than an additional tax, it was the right decision.

With the country just beginning to come out of the economic recession that hit a year-and-a-half ago, and with residents of the Mahoning Valley struggling to make ends meet, now isn’t the time for the public sector to be asking for more money from the taxpayers.

Indeed, even the renewal of levies aren’t guaranteed this year. Things are difficult in the private sector workplace and there is scant support for giving government money to operate.

The library system has its work cut out for it even though the 1-mill levy has been on the books for many years. The arguments for passage are many and compelling, but there is a lot of voter cynicism and mistrust.

Therefore, between now and the November election, the administration and the board of the public library must be willing to make the case for continued funding of this important service for the educational and intellectual well-being of the community, and for the county’s quality of life.

Yes, in this instance, it is appropriate to judge the book by its cover. The cover is the library system that serves a declining population but has an increasing circulation. From 1970 to 2008, the number of people living in Mahoning County dropped from 303,424 to 248,931, yet the lending of books, CDs and the like is up 23 percent since 2000; the number of users has increased by 30 percent; Web site traffic has skyrocketed 293 percent, and over 1 million people visited the system in 2008.

Finances

But the key argument that can be made in persuading voters to approve the 1-mill levy renewal centers on finances. The system has no debt, but financial challenges have arisen as a result of state government’s slashing $1,566,579 in funding from the biennium budget. In addition, the system is losing $135,000 in interest income. State revenue is expected to drop another $684,000 next year.

It is for this reason that the library board last month passed a resolution to seek a $1.7-mill levy consisting of a 1-mill replacement levy and 0.7 additional. That total would have generated $6.87 million annually, compared with the $3.07 million a year that the 1-mill brings in.

However, given that the county commissioners have ultimate say on placing the issue on the November ballot, it was clear there was little support for a 1.7-mill levy. There will be other tax renewal issues before the voters.

The cuts in state funding already have had an effect on operations. Library hours have been reduced 15 percent, resulting in the loss of about one day a week of library service at each branch.

But while the argument for the levy renewal can easily be made, there are detractors who will argue that the system needs to be streamlined more and costs reduced to reflect the county’s declining population and the fact that many young people have personal computers to access online library services.


Comments

1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years ago

I'll be voting NO. Libraries are now dinosaurs for information. You can get more from the free internet these days. Why pay to keep them going? They serve no useful purpose. Join me in voting NO on this and the sales tax levy on the November ballot. It's time the commissioners realize people are out of mopney to pay taxes. Tighen your belts commissioners now!

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2Lavenderliz(3 comments)posted 5 years ago

I will be voting YES. It is a renewal and libraries are NOT dinosaurs for information. I bet the person above hasn't been to a library in years. Of course you can get info from the internet; however, there is nothing like reading a good book. Also, the library offers different magazines, dvds, videos and music cd's. People can save money by attending their local library and ordering these materials. Also many people DO NOT have the money to pay for the internet. Why not vote for the library - do you want to see more lay-offs that trickle down to less services, less money being spent at localities and etc. Anyone who doesn't vote for a library renewal is an uneducated moron.

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3tmcquillan(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

UnionForever - I'm not sure if you realize this, but the public service staff at the library is union. If the levy does not pass, more union staff will be laid off.

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4UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years ago

tmcquillan - I feel sorry for my union brothers and sisters, but I need a break today from taxes. I am struggling to pay my bills and all the taxes that keep getting assessed on me while my pay check has shrunk and my healthcare costs have gone out of sight. The truth is libraries are dinosaurs that serve only a few these days. I get everything I use to get on the internet now so close 'em up and let's get into the 21st century with library technology that costs less. When will the Democrooks get us some real union jobs like the old steelmill days?

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5Lavenderliz(3 comments)posted 5 years ago

In reponse to UnionForever... we are all struggling to pay our bills. My husband died a few years back and I am the sole bread winner for my household - I have two kids at home. The Library is just asking for a RENEWAL not an increase. Parents do not want their children on the computer internet all day - remember there are PREDITORS on the internet that can harm children. I have also taken a pay cut and my hospitalization insurance through my employer has gone up. Why do you want the libraries to close? Isn't that a better place for a kid to hang out than on the corner? I suggest you get yourself a library card - you will save money in the long run buddy!!!!

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