Recently the library avoided a 50 percent cut to their funding in the just-concluded state budget, but they did get a 15 percent cut. Experience leads us to believe that state government will revisit this cut. Quite frankly, in the way of Columbus politicians' thinking, a 35 percent cut to the libraries remains on the table, and could take place this fall or spring depending on revenues.The library board implemented NONE of these suggestions. Nor have they taken any other steps to mitigate the crisis. They are well aware that the library is a revered institution among Cincinnatians, so they chose instead to capitalize on that goodwill and go straight for a new tax.
Risk # 1: First is that the weight of the three levies you have already reviewed, along with a brand new library levy and huge local levies, most notably the Cincinnati Public Schools. The risk is this will break the bank of too many taxpayers and they will come out and vote NO to some if not all of these items. Voters will have to weigh the public disaster should so many good programs fail against the very personal disaster should their personal budgets be swamped with over one half billion dollars in taxes.
Risk # 2: Second is the very real fact that the library is faced with making many of the cuts I describe today anyway. Refusing to make them now, but instead making them after the levy passes and future state cuts are made, will leave the public feeling cheated and frustrated. After all, they were told to pass the levy to stop library cuts, they answered the call, yet the cuts happened anyway.
A Proposal that makes sense:
Honestly, the best course of action would be for the library to make these cuts NOW and place their levy on the ballot in November of 2010 where they would have a clear shot, with no other county levies and thus not risk sinking other levies this year.
It is easy to urge others to make cuts and improve their financial standing and then NOT make suggestions. While we feel the library is generally run by good people, they have failed to really turn over every rock and stone to increase revenue and cut costs. We have identified several ways to do just that and we believe there are many more than this list. (Data attached):
- Using 2008 figures the library loaned over 15.6 million items. 45% or approximately 6.9 million items were audiovisual and digital. A simple $1 charge per item would raise $6.9 million. Sure there may be a drop off of circulation, but with Blockbuster charging between $4 and $5, it is still a bargain. Recently Clermont County libraries instituted a similar charge when their budget was tight. Our library used to charge and they can still keep their aggressive fine system.
- The 40-branch network, not counting the Main Library, circulates 10.9 million items with the average of 272,000 each. Yet 9 branches circulate one third or less than that. Serious consideration must be give to closing these underutilized branches. Every one of these branches is within 2 miles of another branch.
- Of the branches, the library owns 30. Three have a rent of one dollar or less, but 7 pay full rent. It would seem logical to stop paying rent. I do not know which rental facilities also have low circulation and are close to other libraries and are on the bus line and have a separate children’s section and special magazines ect. That is not my job. We are just pointing out that there is a basis to make hard choices and they must be made.
- Currently one can run up fines to $9.99 without loss of privileges. Dropping this tolerance to $4.99 and thus forcing the repayment of outstanding fines could result in collections of $374,000 to $721,000.
- There are 206,000 cardholders in Hamilton County and 29,000 out-of-county cardholders. A simple charge of $10 to out-of-county cardholders would sure make the county residents happy, who will pay much more with this levy. After all, these 29,000 out-of-county folks use our library and do not pay.
- Some have advocated charging the 206,000 cardholders a dollar a year. After all, the Hamilton County parks charge a fee even after we are taxed. While we do not like this suggestion, how about charging a high fee like $20 for a special preference card that gives those card holders a first shot at getting new titles and access to on line resources. Friends of the Library members are already receiving special treatment, so this is nothing new.
- Finally, library employees are paid every two weeks. Many state employees are paid monthly. This simple change saves money. Hopefully they are paid ONLY with direct deposit and NO check stub is distributed, they can see it on line.
- Was buying 1,000 copies of the last Harry Potter necessary? That is 25 copies a branch. Once again, the library is NOT Barnes & Noble. We have witnessed the pulling of hundreds of books off the shelves that were NEVER checked out. And where are those copies of Harry Potter now? Overbuying of DVDs in order to have the latest HOT release is wrong; the library is not Blockbuster and should not even try to complete.
COAST feels that this is an abuse of taxpayers' generosity. Until the library makes an effort to reign-in its costs through commonsense controls, we urge you to vote against their proposed tax levy, which appears on the ballot as Issue 7.