State funding for the Westerville Public Library has been cut by 42 percent since 2007, dropping the library's funding to 1996 levels.

State funding for the Westerville Public Library has been cut by 42 percent since 2007, dropping the library's funding to 1996 levels.

In 2009, the library made spending cuts, including the elimination of Sunday hours and reducing purchases of materials, and took a wait-and-see approach to state support and whether it would need more money.

Two years later, the library is on the ballot, requesting that voters renew its existing levy and increase its funding as it faces an additional $600,000 in state funding cuts.

As the fall campaign season approaches, library officials and the campaign committee are working to educate the public about the loss of state funds and the effect they have had.

"There's been a huge impact," library executive director Don Barlow said. "People are waiting a lot longer to get their materials than they would otherwise. We've put a lot of building maintenance things on hold. Because we have less staff, we have fewer programs than we used to."

The library is requesting a 2-mill continuing levy to replace an 0.8-mill levy, which is set to expire. The 2-mill levy would cost property owners $61.25 annually per $100,000 in property valuation. That's an increase of $36.75 per $100,000 valuation.

Without the levy, the library would lose 42 percent of its funding all of its local share, Barlow said.

"The local property tax used to be 28 percent of our funding; now it's 42 percent because of the state funding cuts," he said.

Eric Busch, who is co-chairing the library levy campaign, said volunteers will be working hard in the coming months to convince Westerville voters that spending extra money on the library is spending money wisely.

"It's a tough economy; everybody knows that. We are going out to ask for support for the library in a tough economy, and we know that," Busch said.

According to Busch, the Westerville Public Library is the lowest-funded library in Franklin County, and even with the tax increase, it would be the third-lowest funded library in the county.

"We want to remind people I think people already know it that the library does a great job of squeezing a nickle, of driving the value of the dollars that they receive," Busch said.

If approved, the levy will allow the library to restore previous cuts, reinstate programs, make necessary maintenance repairs and reopen on Sundays, he said. Approval of the levy also would keep the library financially secure in coming years, he said.

"One of the things that we hear most often is to try to reopen on Sundays," Busch said. "That would be possible, and the library board and Don Barlow feel that if this does pass, even with some of the state cuts in funding, that we'll be in pretty good shape for a number of years."

Busch said pro-levy supporters are working on a fact sheet to circulate to voters. They are also working on establishing a website and working to organize volunteers to get the library's message out to voters.

"I think we have a group that's pretty enthusiastic for the library, and I think we represent the tens of thousands of patrons who are also pretty satisfied and enthusiastic about the library and its services," he said.