Delaware County District Library director Mary Jane Santos stated the case for the library's first-ever operating levy attempt last week when she spoke to Berlin Township trustees.

Delaware County District Library director Mary Jane Santos stated the case for the library's first-ever operating levy attempt last week when she spoke to Berlin Township trustees.

"In the 103 years that the library has been in Delaware County, this is the first time we've ever had to put a levy on the ballot," Santos said. "We've just run out of money."

Library officials are seeking a 1-mill, 10-year operating levy that will generate $4.7-million per year and will cost homeowners about $2.55 per month per $100,000 in home value.

The levy will be on the ballot May 5 in all areas of the county except those served by the Ashley Wornstaff Library and Sunbury Community Library.

Santos said in the past, 94.4 percent of all library operations have been funded by the state. In 2002, those funds were frozen at the 2001 level. In 2008, the funding was unfrozen and fell by 16 percent for 2009 during state budget cuts. The library receives no local government funding.

"I'm sure that as township trustees, you know how big a blow it is to lose 16 percent of your budget," Santos said.

"It's an economic fact that when the economy takes a downturn, library use takes an upturn," she said. "It's a double whammy for us without incoming state funds."

In late 2008, Santos said, the library "ran out of money, and has been operating from cash reserves," and those reserves will run out in August.

She said later the library already has made cuts to the "bare bones," and library employees will receive no raises this year. If the levy fails, more cuts will be needed, but those cuts have not yet been determined, she said.

If the levy passes, money will not be collected until 2010, but Santos said the state legislature would allow the library to continue operating by borrowing state funds using levy money as collateral.

Santos said currently, the library has an operating budget of $2.4-million per year. The remaining money generated will be used to increase the materials budget to buy new books and media materials, upgrade technology, extend hours at the Ostrander branch, renovate and expand the Powell branch for additional children's programs, and help build a new branch in Orange Township off U.S. Route 23, near Home Road in the North Orange development.

Santos said the new 30,000-square-foot branch would be a full-service branch, and might be open as soon as the summer of 2011 if the levy passes.

A public meeting about the levy will be held at 7 p.m. April 8 at the main branch at 84 E. Winter St., Delaware.