Ohio libraries have been spared the proposed budget cuts that had threatened to lower their state funding by 30%. However, the biennial budget passed by the state legislature July 13 still includes a reduction in library funding of some 11%.
The budget legalizes racetrack slot machines and cuts several state programs to close a projected $3.2 billion deficit. It reduces the state’s Public Library Fund by $84.3 million over the next two years rather than the $227.3 million proposed by Gov. Ted Strickland in June; that plan prompted a flood of protests from library supporters across the state.
However, the Ohio Library Council warns that the budget cuts, combined with a drop in the Public Library Fund due to declining state tax revenues, will result in a 2009 reduction in library funding of as much as 25–30% compared to last year. Last year's losses have already triggered painful service cutbacks in some systems.
“The Ohio Library Council acknowledges the countless hours and hard work by the members of the General Assembly and their staff to reach this agreement,” said OLC Executive Director Doug Evans. “Ohio’s public libraries have the citizens of Ohio to thank for exerting extraordinary influence on their elected representatives in the Ohio General Assembly to minimize the cuts to library funding. We believe the overwhelming groundswell of public support convinced the legislature to reject the governor’s massive cuts, and attempt to preserve library funding as much as possible during this challenging financial situation.”
Ohio’s school libraries received some better news from lawmakers: The Ohio Educational Media Association announced that the legislature’s Conference Committee approved a bill July 13 that will phase in funding for licensed librarians and media specialists in the state’s schools over the next 10 years. The measure, based on Gov. Strickland’s Education Reform and Funding Plan (PDF file) provides $60,000 for each librarian. The number of librarians for each school district will be determined by a formula based on the number of students enrolled, but each district will receive at least one.