Voters in the areas served by Southwest Public Libraries won't be receiving visits from supporters of the 1-mill library levy during an extended campaign caused by the cancellation of the March 17 primary due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

But with the Ohio General Assembly's approval March 25 of a plan to eliminate most in-person voting for the primary and extend absentee voting until April 28, the levy committee's message may be delivered to their mailbox.

The extension of absentee voting means the levy committee will extend its effort of sending "absentee-voter chasers" to anyone requesting an absentee ballot, SWPL director Mark Shaw said.

"These are postcard-size mailings with the basic information about the levy, including our main message that voting for the levy will not increase your taxes," he said.

"We're continuing to do what we can," library levy committee chairman Jeff Davis said. "Where our campaign was previously largely a person-to-person, door-to-door effort, we are in a bigger predicament now (with the coronavirus health concerns and stay-at-home order) and you never want to lose sight of that. So it's changing how we'll be running our campaign from here on out."

Ahead of the March 17 primary date, the campaign committee mailed the chaser cards to voters who had requested absentee ballots so they could vote early, Shaw said.

"Now each day, we're receiving a list of the people who have requested a ballot, and we'll mail the chasers to them," he said.

The plan state lawmakers have approved requires voters to request a ballot by noon April 25 either by printing a request form from the Ohio secretary of state's website, sos.state.oh.us, or calling their county board of elections and asking that a ballot request be mailed. Voters then must fill out and return the ballot after it is sent to them. The ballots are expected to come with a postage-paid envelope voters can use to mail them back to the board.

"It's going to be interesting to see how all this impacts the total vote," Shaw said.

"We believe in our community," Davis said. "They have supported the library in the past, and we're confident they will continue to support the library."

The library system is seeking a 10-year renewal of the 1-mill levy voters approved in November 2010.

The 2010 levy was the system's first ballot measure.

The levy's effective millage rate is 0.89 mill, Shaw said. Millage is reduced when property values increase, which has occurred over the past decade.

If renewed, the levy would continue to provide about $2.5 million or about 37% of the library's annual operating income, he said. The state's Public Library Fund provides most of the rest of the library's funding.

Under the renewal and considering the effective millage rate, a residential property owner would pay $27.26 annually for every $100,000 of appraised value of their house, Shaw said. Senior citizens eligible for the homestead exemption would pay less.

Since the original levy's passage in 2010, a new Grove City Library was built in partnership with the city at 3959 Broadway and the Westland Area Library at 4740 W. Broad St. was improved with new meeting space and an expanded youth services area.

The levy renewal would allow the system to maintain its current level of service and programming, Shaw said.

The libraries temporarily closed on March 14 due to the coronavirus outbreak and will not open until April 6 at the earliest, he said.

"We can't wait to get back to normal and reopen to provide our service to our community," he said.

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