Eblin heard of the proposed 30 percent cut in funding for public libraries on Friday following Gov. Ted Strickland’s press conference discussing a framework on how to address the $3.2 billion budget shortfall which lawmakers are now scrambling to address by the June 30 deadline.
The MCDPL system relies solely on state tax collections and has no local operating levy for financial support like many libraries in larger communities. Due to dwindling tax collections, the MCDPL has already seen a 20 percent cut in its budget this year which means if the 30 percent cut is passed, it would absorb a 50 percent cut in funding for the next two years.
“We are already down to bare bones,” Eblin said of recent budget cuts that resulted in reducing hours and days of operation at local branches, except for the Pomeroy Branch, and the lay offs of two part-time employees.
If the proposed 30 percent cut is passed in the new budget, Eblin said it’s likely many branches would have to close all together in addition to more lay offs. She said in terms of usage, the Pomeroy Branch has the highest but even that branch may not be exempt from a reduction in staff and hours of operation if the budget cuts are finalized.
Eblin is urging patrons and residents who support the MCDPL to contact Gov. Strickland’s office via e-mail or by phone at 614-466-3555 and local legislators including Ohio Sen. Jimmy Stewart (R-Meigs) at 614-466-8076 and Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) at 614-466-2158. Libraries across Ohio have also set up a website for those citizens who wish to speak out about the cuts, complete with links to local legislators, at saveohiolibraries.com.
When contacted by The Daily Sentinel, Sen. Stewart said he hopes those in support of maintaining library funding don’t hesitate to contact Gov. Strickland’s office.
“I believe this is a result of complete mismanagement and incompetence in the governor’s office in managing this budget,” Stewart said. “The governor comes out 11 days before the budget has to be signed and passed with a laundry list of irresponsible fiscal decisions. They’ve known for months there’s a problem...we should’ve been discussing these options for months. It just shows a complete dereliction of duty on Gov. Strickland’s part and I’m extremely disappointed in his performance and that of his staff.”
When contacted by The Daily Sentinel, Rep. Phillips also expressed her support for local libraries.
“Everyone in the legislature is working hard to balance the budget,” Phillips said. “I think this is an area (library funding cuts) that has people very concerned along with other cuts. These are things that could have a long term impact and could be harmful.”
Phillips said she realizes many people in her district use public libraries for free Internet access and other educational and social activities.
“We’re really working hard to make sure the House leadership understand what this means in the communities of Southeast Ohio.”
Phillips added, “The governor said on Friday he wasn’t trying to sugarcoat anything, that this is going to be really difficult. I will do what I can to protect the libraries.”