More than half of the Pickerington Public Library's annual funding will be at stake when voters decide the fate of a permanent, 1.25-mill operating levy during the Nov. 6 general election.

According to library director Tony Howard, the two-branch library system is expected to surpass 200,000 visitors in 2018. That is a 16-percent increase from the only time the library asked voters to approve an operating levy in 2009.

Back then, the 10-year, 0.75-mill levy was approved, and it has provided approximately $830,000 in annual revenue each year since being passed.

But Howard said library officials have found current funding levels, which also includes about $1.06 million from the State Public Library Fund -- and $64,900 in grants, fees and interest on investments -- isn't enough to "appropriately" serve the almost 50,000 residents in the library's service area.

In 2018, the library's operating budget is approximately $2.21 million, he said.

If the levy is approved by voters, it would renew the 0.75 mills approved in 2009, and include and an additional 0.5 mills. It would become a permanent levy.

It would cost the owner of a $100,000 house in the Pickerington Local School District $38.67 per year, Howard said. It would generate approximately $1.485 million annually. Homeowners pay $21.17 per year per $100,000 of home value for the existing library levy. It will expire at the end of 2019, and the new levy amount would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

"If the levy does not pass, the library will lose 57 percent of its potential revenue and will have to make cuts in services, resources, hours of operations and staffing," Howard said.

Without passage of the levy, Howard said, services such as access to computers and technology instruction would be reduced.

He said the library also might have to eliminate its Homework Help Center, adult learning classes, job search assistance, notary services and reference and research resources.

Additionally, Howard said, failure of the levy would challenge the library's ability to develop literacy skills programming for children and limit how many new books, e-books, DVDs and other materials the library offers.

In addition to a 16-percent increase in library visits, Howard said the amount of research questions library staff answer annually has grown by 69 percent since November 2009, and the average attendance at library classes and events is up 27 percent.

In the meantime, Howard said, state funding for libraries is less than 20 years ago. He said since 2008, state funding for the Pickerington library has decreased by 11.5 percent.

"Demand for our services is higher than it has ever been and continues to grow," he said. "We loaned 67 percent more materials last year.

"I believe the mission and vision set by our library board of trustees has positioned the Pickerington Public Library as an important resource for the community.

"Our challenge is that our current funding levels aren't enough to allow us to appropriately serve the almost 50,000 residents in the library's service area."

No organized opposition to the proposed levy has surfaced, and library officials said they are unaware of any such group.

The tax issue will not have an assigned number on the ballot until it's certified by the Fairfield County Board of Elections and the Ohio Secretary of State. Certification is expected to occur by early September.

In the meantime, Howard said the library's data shows that for every $1 spent by the library system, the "total economic benefit" provided to the community is $4.44.

"This figure is factored using current costs for materials and resources and compared to the library's 2017 statistical data," he said.

"In other terms, for every $1 the library spends, it frees up $4.44 for community residents to spend elsewhere in the community.

"The library serves over 27,000 cardholders through two locations.

"Through (the) Central Library Consortium, a resource sharing network of public libraries in central Ohio, cardholders share access to 5 million items owned by 17 library systems in seven counties, (and) through SearchOhio and OhioLink, two other resource-sharing networks of public and college libraries around Ohio, cardholders have access to 16 million items owned by 44 public libraries and 120 university libraries."

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