Ohio Libraries Say They Can’t Afford Cut In Two-Year State Budget

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Ohio’s libraries say they’ll lose money if the $74.7 billion state budget stays as is. And they told a Senate committee looking into the budget that they also won’t share in the billions that the state and local governments will get from the American Rescue Plan.

While libraries were closed for browsing early in the pandemic, many had curbside pickup and allowed people to park and use their Wi-Fi.

Several libraries reported kids in remote learning would come to library parking lots to access the internet. And Ohio Library Council Executive Director Michelle Francis told of one library where a man set up his own table, computer and printer outside the library and ordered food to be delivered while he worked.

But Jay Smith of the Ohio Library Council said libraries are getting no direct COVID relief money, but will share $200 million distributed to libraries nationwide.

“Of that amount, the state of Ohio is receiving $4.5 million to divide amongst university and academic libraries, K-12 libraries, prison libraries, and public libraries,” Smith said.

The state is getting $2.2 billion from the American Rescue Plan, and cities and counties will get another $2.2 billion.

The state budget lowers the percentage of state revenue that libraries get from 1.7% to 1.66%, which amounts to a $20 million cut.

And Smith said since library aid is tied to the overall state general revenue fund, libraries will get less with the 2% income tax cut in the budget, which some lawmakers say could be increased.

Library officials also say 20% of libraries rely solely on state funding because they don’t have a local property tax levy.