Election Preview: Issue 1 would help Public Library keep operations, offset lost state funds

Ballot issue is a renewal, won't raise taxes

CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County’s public library system is one of the busiest in the nation, and voters will be asked to continue its local funding.

The Nov. 5 ballot includes Issue 1, a 1-mill, 10-year property tax levy renewal for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. It would produce about $181 million in funding over the next decade.

The levy would generate roughly $17.5 million annually. The homeowner of a $100,000 house pays about $30 a year in property taxes to fund the library.

Because the levy is a renewal, property owners wouldn’t see an increase in their tax bill.

If approved, the levy would be used to help fund basic operating expenses and maintenance of library facilities. It would include keeping branch libraries open, updating books, continuing homework centers for students, and upgrading public computers.

The levy provides about one-third of the library’s budget, with most of the remainder coming from the state of Ohio.

In recent years, the library system’s share of state funding has been reduced. Until recently, the Public Library Fund (PLF) was funded with 1.97 percent of the total tax revenue received by Ohio and divided among the 251 public libraries across the state. But the percentage of tax revenues allocated to that fund has changed.

As a result, state funding for Ohio’s public libraries has dropped from $452 million in 2003 to $370 million in 2009, and to $344 million last year.

In 2012, state funding accounted for 62.2 percent of the local library system’s annual budget, while levy revenues accounted for 31.2 percent.

Levy revenues also are decreasing by about 2 percent due to property re-evaluations.

There is no organized opposition to the levy.

Founded in 1853, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has 41 locations throughout the county. With 9 million items in its collection, the library system is the 12th largest nationwide.

The library’s main location in downtown Cincinnati circulates more than 4 million items each year, the most of any single facility in the United States. It has about 1.3 million visitors annually.



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