Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Libraries battle proposal for 6 percent budget cut

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Frances Black has tried to hide the effects of a funding freeze on services in the suburban Columbus library system she directs.

        But Ms. Black and librarians across the state fear that a proposed 6 percent cut in their budgets could lead to more obvious impacts, such as reduced hours and fewer new materials.

        “If this additional percentage cut takes effect, it's really going to do devastating things,” Ms. Black, director of Southwest Public Libraries, said Tuesday.

        The library would start by canceling its popular Sunday hours, Ms. Black said.

        Senate Republicans have proposed the cut to help balance the state's $1.5 billion budget deficit. It would reduce state money that libraries and other local governments receive from the state.

        Gov. Bob Taft and House Speaker Larry Householder, both Republicans, have proposed competing plans to deal with the deficit. Neither plan includes the cut.

        Mr. Taft is studying the Senate proposal but hasn't taken a position, a spokesman for the governor said. Mr. Householder has concerns about the idea and is worried it will pose an additional burden on local governments, a spokeswoman for the speaker said.

        Taft's two-year, $45 billion state budget that went into effect July 1 froze the local government funds.

        Taft's budget also reduced library funding by $12 million when he tapped local government funds to run the Ohio Public Library Information Network.

        A 6 percent cut on top of the freeze and the reduction would be hard on the state's 250 libraries, and especially the more than 180 libraries that rely almost solely on state money, said Lynda Murray, interim director of the Ohio Library Council.

        The cut would translate to a reduction of about $50 million out of about $500 million provided by the Library and Local Government Support Fund this year, Ms. Murray said.

        In Cincinnati, home of the state's largest library system, the cut would mean a temporary end to construction projects and renovations, said Patricia Schoettker, clerk-treasurer of the 41-branch Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County.

        The system was able to build a new branch in Harrison last year, for example, and paint and install carpet at several other branches.


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