State budget cuts since 2009 have led to a detrimental $18 million loss for the Akron-Summit County Public Library. In addition, a decrease in property values has caused a $1 million annual revenue decline for the library system.
Despite these financial setbacks, the Akron-Summit County Public Library continues to serve 285,000 residents in the Summit County area but has had to reduce hours, cut back on staff, delay maintenance and repairs and computer upgrades, as well as other actions to accommodate. On May 5, Akron voters will be asked to renew a property tax levy, with a slight increase, which would help restore these cutbacks.
The existing levy, which expires this year, currently accounts for nearly half of the library’s annual budget. Issue 8 on the May 5 ballot includes renewal of this 1.4 mill levy, with an increase of 0.5 mills.
If approved, the measure would cost $5.54 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home, a total of $66.50 a year.
The library system houses 1.9 million items (books, CDs, DVDs) at 20 locations, including two bookmobiles and 17 regional branch facilities embedded within Akron’s various communities. The system also is a source of free Internet connection for many residents. The library employs 385 individuals throughout the county-wide organization.
The Akron-Summit County Public Library has embarked on a number of initiatives to connect with the community and with technology. The Library is host to free movies for families, film festival showings, community meetings (10,000 meetings were held last year throughout its facilities), GED education, computer classes, farmer’s markets, comic conventions, Maker Faires and concerts, as well as operating a technology center, which helps residents better use eReaders, tablets and other electronic devices, along with an audio studio for aspiring musicians and podcasters. The Main Library also houses the Akron Digital Media Center (affiliated with the Akronist), which offers free community workshops and a video studio that’s open for community use.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the potential outcomes for the levy, depending on whether it passes or fails.
If the levy passes…
- It would generate $14.7 million each year. The library’s total operating budget is $22.3 million annually.
- The library would restore summer Sunday hours at the main branch, as well as some weekday branch hours.
- Selected vacant staffing positions would be filled.
- Free, online tutoring would be made available 24/7 for any student with a library card.
- In-person homework assistance would be offered.
- A satellite facility would be established in the Springfield/Lakemore community, currently an underserved area.
If the levy fails…
- Approximately half of the library’s locations would close.
- About 200 people (half of current staffing) would lose their jobs.
- Many programs provided to the community would be significantly reduced or eliminated.
- Hours of operation would be significantly cut back.
For more information about the levy, to learn how the levy may impact you as a homeowner, or to find out ways to show your support, visit the Citizens for the Library’s Future web site.