Southwest Public Libraries trustees on Jan. 12 are expected to consider placing a one-mill library levy on the ballot in 2010.

Southwest Public Libraries trustees on Jan. 12 are expected to consider placing a one-mill library levy on the ballot in 2010.

Mark Shaw, SPL executive director, estimated the levy will generate $2.5-million annually for the library.

The trustees have taken the first step toward a levy, asking the Franklin County auditor to certify how much money one mill would raise.

The Jan. 12 meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Westland Area Library, 4740 W. Broad St., Columbus.

The filing deadline for local issues on the May 4 ballot is Feb. 18.

SPL is the only library system in Franklin County that receives no funding from local property taxes, Shaw said. Overall, state funding for the library has fallen by 31 percent since 2007.

He said SPL's total budget in 2008 was $4.3-million. The budget fell to $3.2-million this year and is projected to fall further to $3-million by 2010.

Library trustees in July reduced staffing and operating hours, and imposed mandatory unpaid furlough days.

Shaw said the library has put seven levies on the ballot between 1986 to 2002. All have failed.

Kay Byard, library board president, said all past levies have failed easily because they were for permanent improvements.

"We have not come even within a prayer of winning," Byard said. "But this is the first one that we have ever run just to keep operating. It's not just adding some frills."

She said she's unsure if trustees should seek a levy in May or during the November general election.

"We (trustees) haven't really talked about it all that much," Byard said. "When we start talking about this, we're going to have to be as realistic as we can."

While the auditor's certification is preliminary, library trustee Jill Billman-Royer said trustees would not have sought the certification if they were not serious.

"You wouldn't pass a resolution like that unless you're seriously considering (a levy)," she said. "I would rather have us not delay the process because our funding situation is not going to improve anytime soon."

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com