Southwest Public Libraries trustees on July 28 unanimously voted to reduce staffing and operating hours, and require unpaid furlough days in response to a decline of 31 percent in state funding since 2007. They also discussed the possibility of seeking a 1-mill operating levy.

Southwest Public Libraries trustees on July 28 unanimously voted to reduce staffing and operating hours, and require unpaid furlough days in response to a decline of 31 percent in state funding since 2007.

They also discussed the possibility of seeking a 1-mill operating levy.

According to executive director Mark Shaw, revenue is projected to decline about $800,000 from 2008 to 2009, along with an additional projected loss of $1.1-million by 2010.

The library system receives 95 percent of its funding from the state.

Southwest Public Libraries is the only library system in Franklin County that receives no funding from local property taxes, Shaw said.

Trustees voted to lay off two full-time employees, one outreach clerk and one circulation clerk, and reduce another circulation clerk from full time to 20 hours a week.

Shaw said the staff has shrunk from 116 employees in 2001 to about 60 with the newest lay-offs, which will become effective Aug. 3. Shaw said state funding to the libraries has dropped from $4.4-million in 2001 to $2.9-million this year.

The new furlough policy will require remaining employees to take two unpaid days off each month.

Shaw said news of the pending lay-offs triggered an additional three retirements.

"I hate to see people go," said trustee Jill Billman-Royer. "I think we're making the best of an impossible situation."

Billman-Royer asked Shaw how the bleak budget outlook has affected staff morale.

"It's not good," Shaw said. "It's tough, but we'll get through it."

Trustees discussed seeking a 1-mill local property tax levy either in November or May 2010.

"I think whether or not we go on the ballot in November will depend on what happens (Aug. 4)," Shaw said. That's when the South-Western schools operating levy will appear on the ballot.

Billman-Royer said the library's plan will be affected by the fate of the school levy Aug. 4, and whether the school levy will reappear Nov. 3

"I'm afraid people are going to link the two (levies) in their minds," said trustee Pattie Moncman.

"Maybe we should wait until May," said board president Kay Byard.

"I don't want to do that," Billman-Royer added.

Shaw said the struggle by library lobbyists to stop cuts at the state level has been a "knockdown drag-out fight" for at least the past eight years.

He noted Gov. Ted Strickland's stance is that libraries should be funded locally.

Southwest Public Libraries' last seven levy attempts all failed, he said.

Meanwhile, Shaw said most materials purchases will be eliminated and delivery services will be made only to individual homes. Materials no longer will be delivered to nursing homes and daycares.

Trustees reduced operating hours by16 hours per week at both Grove City Library and Westland Area Library, the two libraries that make up Southwest Public Libraries. The libraries will open later in the morning and close earlier in the evening and afternoon.

New hours are:

Monday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, closed.