The Southwest Public Libraries 1-mill operating levy won't make it to the Nov. 2 ballot without passing through the hands on the South-Western City Schools board of education first.

The Southwest Public Libraries 1-mill operating levy won't make it to the Nov. 2 ballot without passing through the hands on the South-Western City Schools board of education first.

Saying no is not an option.Under Ohio law, the school board is required to put the library levy on the ballot. That vote is scheduled at the July 12 meeting.

Just how the libraries and schools are related is dictated by section 5705.23 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Libraries in Ohio serve areas defined by boundaries, such as a school district, municipality, township or association. Most of the state's 251 libraries have boundaries that match a school district.

One quirk of Ohio law is that only elected officials can put a levy on the ballot. Because school board members are elected, they are required to take that action on the library board's behalf.

Southwest Public Libraries executive director Mark Shaw and Ohio Library Council executive director Doug Evans summarized other points of 5705.23:

Finances: The school board is required to approve the libraries' annual budget, but cannot change any allocations within it. No schools funding passes to the libraries and the libraries don't share money with the schools.

While the schools and libraries jointly operated the now-closed Central Crossing library inside the high school, they were financially independent of one another. If the library levy passes, all of the revenues from it will be used by the libraries.

Library governance: Library boards operate completely autonomously in Ohio. The only oversight is in the form of annual audits conducted by the state.

Appointing library board members: State law requires that school boards appoint board members for school district libraries.

In Southwest Public Libraries' case, anyone who applies for a libraries board seat is interviewed by a school board committee. The committee includes a library board member. The committee conducts interviews and selects members without input from Shaw or other library representatives.

Candidate pools have ranged from three to eight people for each open board seat.

Southwest Public Libraries board: The seven-member board includes adult residents of the district who have library cards. Candidates cannot serve on the library and school boards at the same time.

Current members are president Kay Byard, 4736 Musket Way, Columbus; vice president Jill Billman-Royer, 5695 Morningstar Drive, Galloway; secretary Lisa Leasure, 2485 Milligan Grove, Grove City; Kathy Bright, 2916 Buxton Lane, Grove City; Richard Curtiss 263 Topsfield, Columbus; Marc Mays, 6501 Portage Path Court, Grove City; and Pattie Moncman, 4717 Nicholas Pointe Drive, Grove City.

State library funding: Libraries get 1.97 percent of the state's general tax revenue through the Public Library Fund. That amount was cut from 2.22 percent last August. The state gave libraries $498-million in 2000. Last year, they got $348-million. Southwest Public Libraries is operating on a $3-million budget this year, down from $4.5-million.

Columbus Metropolitan Library: A 2.2-mill levy that expires this year provides half of the library's $45-million budget. A replacement is to be on the November ballot. If Southwest were to merge with Columbus Metropolitan, district property owners would pay the same library property tax that Columbus homeowners pay. In Cincinnati, a first-ever 1-mill levy passed while Dayton voters approved an increase to 1.75 mills, both in November. Akron-Summit County passed a 1.4-mill levy in May.