Two Fulton County libraries are placing levy renewals on the ballot Nov. 2 and asking voters to support their operational costs over the next five years.
Wauseon Public Library has placed a five-year, one-mill operating levy on the ballot, last passed by voters in 2017. The levy will generate an estimated $200,000 annually to cover regular building maintenance and utilities, as well as materials and equipment. The latter will include books, audio books, and DVDS.
Director Maricela DeLeon said while the facility at 117 E. Elm St. is doing relatively well financially, the levy is vital for continued operation. “We’re doing okay in general and with the state, (but) we’re pretty careful watching what we’re spending on,” she said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act this year provided the library with an estimated $340,000, as well as $25,000 and $3,000 grants. The grants, however, were used to purchase cleaning supplies, masks, and gloves, in addition to book sanitizing machines that place book returns back into circulation faster rather than quarantine them for a week.
Because the library is currently on better financial footing than in the past, staffing and hours would not have to be cut in the event the levy fails. But maintenance would be affected, and patrons would face material shortages in the future.
“We would have to be careful about what we purchase. It would affect all the materials,” DeLeon said. She said an average book costs $25-$30, and DVDs are more than $20 each.
A failed levy would also restrict what programs could be offered over the next several years including the summer reading program and entertainment programs.
“I’m pretty positive it will pass. I think we have great support,” DeLeon said. “I think the library is a great part of the community. “We’ll do whatever we can to keep our services up.”
Board of Trustees President Marc Matheny said the levy “is going to keep our library running smoothly, and we just ask our Wauseon residents to support us. We need your help.”
He said, despite the state’s financial help, “the money just isn’t there because of COVID. It’s not a frivolous tax, and we really need it.”
According to Douglas Deacon, Swanton Public Library’s fiscal officer, the five-year, one-mill renewal operating tax on the November ballot represents 36% of the facility’s total revenue budget, based on this year’s projections. “(It’s) extremely vital,” he said.
The levy would generate $209,000 annually – about $136,000 from Fulton County and $73,000 from Lucas County. It was last approved in 2016. The funding complements $163,424 and $92,325 the library has received through the Fulton County and Lucas County Public Library Funds, respectively, and $308,627 through the counties’ property tax settlements.
Deacon said the operating levy covers such expenses as wages, benefits, books and eBooks, magazines, DVDs, supplies, insurance, utilities, maintenance, improvements, and furniture and fixtures. He said the costs are derived from a “budget-neutral” budget, in which revenues equal expenditures. A small surplus has been recorded for 2021 which will be used to upgrade lighting and outdated fixtures.
If the levy fails, the library, at 305 Chestnut St., would have to consider reducing its hours, material purchases, and maintenance of the equipment and building, he added.
“If the levy fails, we would have to consider placing the levy on a future ballot in order to maintain the needs of our community,” Deacon said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.