Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vote Against Issue 7, the Library Tax Levy

The Library Levy is arousing passions on both sides of the debate. COAST founder and former State Representative Tom Brinkman researched the situation, and submitted the following "Two Risks and One Proposal for the Library" to the library board back in July:

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.

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):
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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.

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.


  1. I'll be up front here and state that I work at the library and am in favor of the levy because it will probably save my job.

    That aside, I think the library administration is being honest when they claim that we really need the money. The funding picture for us has been bad and getting worse for several years and we did our best not to ask for too much by spending a lot of money that had been saved. In addition the library has won awards recently for fiscal responsibility and efficiency, so I don't think it's fair to claim that we are not doing anything. The library has been making cuts and doing more with less for years now.


  2. The Library Levy is the ONLY local levy I'm supporting this election. What you fail to understand is that the Library's services are available to EVERYONE, unlike other levies that have come before the voters time after time, for handouts to a certain select group who basically have never got up off their lazy rumps a day in their lives.

    The only other local levy I consistently support is the one for the Senior Citizens, although I'm growing weary of that one simply because it's handouts to quite a number who have lived off the public dole all their lives.

    I'm all for hand ups that can prove clear success. I'm sick of the handouts & giveaway programs with zero accountability.

    With regret, you're all wrong on your reasoning for the Library Levy. With the times being what they are, I've increased my visits to the libraries for enriching reading materials. Going to Half Price Books & the Library Book Sales are an absolute luxury, a special treat on my budget.

  3. You keep suggesting that the library charge non-resident users for having a card. They already do - $25.00, per the library fee page at http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/policies/tablefinesfees.pdf

    Check your facts first.

  4. Clermont County ResidentSeptember 30, 2009 at 2:43 AM

    Please support the library levy. Hamilton County residents should pay higher taxes so I can continue to use your libraries for FREE!

  5. Dave -
    Why won't the library charge a nominal fee for borrowing DVD's? Please tell us why the taxpayers should be paying for peoples' DVD rentals. In difficult economic times like these, public institutions like the library need to pursue EVERY option at their disposal before going to the taxpayers with their hands out. With all due respect, the Library has refused to do so.

  6. I would guess that the DVDs actually make money on the late fees. I believe they are $2/day and it adds up pretty quickly. Rather than lowering the limit, raising the $10 limit to $20 might encourage more late fees and more income.

  7. Warren County ResidentSeptember 30, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Yeah I'm with Clermont County Resident. I like to use your libraries. If you raise your own taxes, I won't have to pay a fee for my Hamilton County library card. Please raise your taxes to subsidize me.

  8. Butler County ResidentSeptember 30, 2009 at 12:44 PM

    Ditto to what Clermont and Warren County Resident said. Me too!!!

  9. Same COAST supporter, different anonymous name.September 30, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    We can't get enough of our own guys to read this crap and support us so I keep using different anonymous names to make an ironic point!

  10. Anderson Township ResidentSeptember 30, 2009 at 5:11 PM

    I'm obsessed with trying to control everyone and everything around me, even if it doesn't affect me directly, which is why I think COAST is so wonderful!

    And I don't live in the city of Cincinnati, but I spend an immense amount of time pretending that I do. Imagining that people in surrounding areas attempting to outdo my brilliant idyllic neighborhood of Anderson (by building modern rail infrastructure and drawing more residents/businesses/money to their locale) just infuriates me!

  11. I love to talk about lofty goals like regionalism and inter-governmental cooperation, unless people from other parts of the region are opposed to me getting my taxpayer funded toys. Then I'll disparage them for living in the suburbs, and tell them to keep their opinions to themselves

  12. I like to get spanked on election day by four guys from the suburbs in elections that only involve city residents. I also enjoy having my elected officials abuse their power to benefit their own families.
    and i enjoy questioning the motives of my political opponents.

    but mostly I love talking a big game about helping poor people, but pursuing policies that only serve to run off the people who actually pay the bills and truly help poor people.

  13. If the library was merely looking for extra money, I'd be opposed the levy. But this is an Armageddon Plan. The money's needed just to keep everything afloat. Shutting the entire system, hurting workers,kids, families and the community just because the board didn't pinch pennies here and there is stupid.

  14. John Fox, CityBeatOctober 1, 2009 at 1:36 AM

    I hear there's a lot of Jewish people who use the library. Therefore I think I'm going to vote no.

  15. Anderson Township ResidentOctober 1, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    Hahahaha! Oh COAST, you and your imagination! You're so creative, making people think that you're Robin Hood while working directly for the king... very sneaky of you - I like that!

    Why you aren't respected and admired by everyone everywhere for the fanciful imaginary realities you concoct is just shocking! Move over Harry Potter!

  16. Why am I not surprised by COAST's short sightedness? You'd oppose a levy that would save a child dying from a horrible disease. I think there are some kittens and puppies outside for you to kick.

    Quite frankly, I'm voting for the Library Levy because I need my job. I have bills to pay and I'm sure that the City of Cincinnati needs the tax that it takes out of my paycheck to pay for basic services. Ah yes...let's make that budget deficit higher shall we? 250 more unemployed Cincinnatians will do wonders for the city.

    As to why we don't charge fees for dvd rental, back when the library first started to carry vhs tapes in the late '80s, there WAS a fee of $1.00 per video to check it out. That fee was about as popular as a lead balloon. The decision was made to drop the check out fee and institute a $2.00 overdue fine. That is currently the highest late fee that the library charges for materials.

    Why do we have thousands of copies of the Harry Potter novels? Simple. When the books come out our reserve lists can top over 2,000 customers waiting. There is a clear demand for the novel(s). We do this for most popular authors.

    If you are truly interested in seeing how much the Library actually saves the taxpayers of Hamilton Co. click on this link to a library use calculator: http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org/info/calculator.html I think you'll be very surprised by the answer COAST.

  17. One thing that nobody seems to be pointing out in this whole library funding debate is that the Hamilton County Public Library gets more state money to support its library than ANY OTHER LIBRARY IN THE STATE. This library gets a disproportionate amount of the state money for public libraries that has only gotten more out of whack as the population of the county has decreased. Meanwhile, counties all over the state don't have enough money to support public library services for their growing populations as people flee Hamilton County. Then, Hamilton County Library complains about out-of-county use, all while fighting hard to keep their lion's share of the state money. They want it both ways. The Hamilton County library absolutely needs to close branches, lessen staff and control spending on materials and to re-evaluate having such a large main library that has most of its collection in areas unavailable to the public. Public libraries all over the country strategically plan to adjust to changing populations and changing funding patterns as a routine management procedure. Hamilton County seems to want to maintain the library's funding as it was in the 1980's and wants to fight any inevitable change. The cuts that the library administration has made in the past have not adequately addressed the realities of this year's budget cuts. They have not cut any hours, staff or materials during this year's unprecedented budget cut and the public should wonder why. The library has not adjusted for the changes in population and in service patterns in this county. They haven't had to because they get so much more money than the other libraries. The population of Hamilton County is not large enough to mandate 40 library locations. I agree with Mr. Brinkman. Rightsize the library infrastructure, control management expenses and materials expensese first (just like many other libraries in the state have done already because they do not get as much funding at Hamilton County), then ask for the levy. My guess is if the library does the job right, no levy will be needed.

  18. Wow - Anon 7:25 might haev just provided us with the dumbest post ever on this blog.

    1) Dying children, kicking kittens, etc. Hyperbole at its worst. Stick to the issue at hand. If you don't know what hyperbole is please get a copy of the dictionary. I'm sure they still carry them at the library.

    2)You accuse COAST of shortsidedness, and then go on to say you're supporting the library for selfish personal reason. That's shortsidedness. The sun doesn't rise and set on your head pal.

  19. It's true the library hasn't cut the hours it is open this year, but it has cut staff. As we experience retirements and other brain drain, most of those employees are not replaced. Rather, the workload per remaining employee is increased. Our branch staff has been cut by 10% in the past 12 months. (There have been many other cost savings enacted, too.)

    I love the library because it is truly FREE to all (who return their materials on time). You paid taxes to build a football stadium, to maintain a zoo and an historic building that houses museums. Yet do you get to use those facilities for free? (no) The free public library is one of America's greatest social accomplishments. Let's do what we can to preserve this gem of civilization.

    Please don't punish the library just because it waited so long to ask for local support and it was the last levy to get on the ballot. Rather, let's hold all publicly funded institutions fiscally responsible and do what we can to make Hamilton County a great place to live.

  20. I enjoy the library and use it very much, but times are tough and they need to cut back not business as usual. I am voting no. Thank you C.O.A.S.T. for the facts.

  21. "I love the library because it is truly FREE to all "
    NO it's not!
    it is supported by taxes, paid by...TAXPAYERS!

    it is not free, it is just that big government lovers have found it convenient to hide the cost so idiots think government is free.

    The library is not free, at least not if you live in the county. I won't try to educate you further to explain how property taxes are passed on to renters and customers.
    Suffice to say, the library is not free.

  22. The Ohio cities three C's libraries (and Covington/Kenton County gets a nod as an alter C) consistently rank the highest in the country. I would hesitate to throw that away.
    On the other hand my working theory is that the Cinti library is so good that it has lead to a durth of used bookstores in the Metro area.
    Some posters here work for the PubLib: are the late fees strictly enforced?

  23. I'm going to support the levy, and here's why.

    If you take a look at the branch usage numbers here


    You'll see the most-used branches are those in the wealthy eastern and northeastern suburbs. Now, obviously the library isn't going to just draw a line at 20 and below and close the lowest-usage branches -- they're all in lower income areas, and it would be political suicide to just trim from the bottom. So they'd have to eliminate some of the higher-usage branches. My branch is Blue Ash, is one of the highest-usage branches in town. I'm there at least a couple of times a week, a I'm a heavy user of the library and seldom buy books. But there are two high-usage branches nearby that I could arguably use -- Madeira and Symmes -- as well as mid-usage Deer Park. If branches close, mine or one of these three will undoubtedly be among those closed. I LIKE having my library nearby, and I like not having it overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of additional visits from residents of nearby suburbs.

    When it comes right down to it, I'm a net provider of tax dollars. I use the roads, but I don't use human services, MRDD services, senior services, the zoo, or schools. I give a lot more in taxes for services I don't use than I ever get back in services I do use. I do use the library. This is one of the few ways my tax dollars are spent that directly benefits ME every day.

    I'll vote for the other levies on the ballot. I'd never vote against Sycamore Schools (which are EXCELLENT and keep my property values very high -- did everyone see the report about Sycamore once again having more National Merit Semifinalists than any other school in Ohio?) and I always support the Zoo, MRDD, human services, and other levies, too, because I feel it's my duty to help those who don't have all my blessings. But I'm also a little bit selfish, and I'll be damned if for ~$100 per year (my house is valued at $300K) I'll give up my library or end up with it ridiculously crowded because some nearby branch has closed.

  24. I don't have a grand passion for or against free lending of DVDs, but I agree with CityKin -- the overdue charges for DVDs are likely a net revenue source already. I once had three DVDs out and forgot they were in my car for nearly a week. $30 I paid in fines. And what's the rationale for renting DVDs instead of lending them free, anyway? I mean, we don't charge a nominal fee for borrowing a $25 book, either.

    Plus, if you start charging for DVD loans, you're going to run into having to give refunds when there's a glitch on one. It's probably more trouble than it's worth.

  25. Wow, I love the calculator.


    It gave me a figure of over $400 a month. I think that's probably correct, as my husband goes through several nonfiction books a week. Right now he's got five out. Their cover prices say $27, $26, $30, $26, $25. So that's a total of $134 in books just for him. I have several books out, too, as does my daughter.

    It could be argued that he could wait a year and buy these in paperback instead of borrowing hardcovers, but this way he gets to read current books more or less for free. (We generally end up paying a few bucks a week in fines.)

  26. Free DVD's for everyone at any costOctober 6, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    It's pretty clear to anyone with half a brain that all of these "anonymous" library supporters commenting on this blog are nothing more than library employees out to protect their jobs.

  27. COASTERs, you people are going down. We are supporting the library levy. This a great chance for all of us to pay higher taxes.

    We have just published a guest editorial from our last two Tax Hikers of the Year, Virgil Lovitt and Bill Seitz, on our main page. These two great tax hikers have made an excellent case for why we need higher taxes around here.


  28. Risk 3: Library Levy passes, all branches stay open with slightly less revenue from the state.

    Risk 4: Library levy fails, State Revenue disappears, and Cincinnati no longer has a library.

    What's wrong with the proposal: Back in 2002 when the library wanted to close 5 branches, communities were up in arms and asked the library to first ask for a levy. The library did not close branches and is now asking for a levy. It is up to the voters to decide if the library closes branches or keeps them open.

    Branches that might not circulate a lot may be in lower income, higher crime areas. These are often a safe haven for teens, children, and adults to attend programs, simply hang out, or even read in a quiet atmosphere that may be lacking at home.

    You say each one of the low circulation branches are within 2 miles of another branch. Have you considered if it is the low circulation branches that are the closest ones?

    The library can't charge out of county fees for Ohio users because such a high percentage of revenue comes from the state. We are free to go to any public library in the state of Ohio and obtain a library card. We can also go to Kenton, Boone, and Campbell counties in KY and get a free library card. We can mooch off of other counties just as much as they can mooch off of us. Some of them have better collections of TV shows than Cincinnati.

  29. Wanted to point out that Friends of the Library do not receive any special treatment related to borrowing materials. They can buy materials at Friends used book sales a day early, but do not get to borrow books any earlier than a non-Friend of the Library.

  30. Sorry I had to do multiple posts here; it's not easy to type with a crying baby.

    The library does not overbuy new DVDs. It buys a reasonable amount. When one is broken or goes missing, it may or may not be replaced. The DVD may not be available anymore. If the library was trying to be Blockbuster it would need to have 100 copies of a DVD for the big branches and 20 for the smaller ones. I know that the smaller ones get at the most 3 copies of something. That doesn't sound like overbuying to me. COAST, you need to investigate into your claims a little more. Talk with your librarians.

  31. In Reply to comment posted at October 2, 2009 7:58 AM

    The library receives more money than other libraries in the state because that are the only library in Hamilton county. I believe Cuyahoga county receives more in total, but must divide it between all the library systems in that county.

  32. I AM ECSTATIC THAT YOUR CAMPAIGN DID NOT PASS! HOW can anyone campaign AGAINST a library?????????? I hope State Representative Tom Brinkman gets absolutely NO votes when he is up for re-election.


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