The Athens Public Library levy passed with about 64% of the vote. The levy offered a raise in funds for the counties’ public libraries to continue operating at their current state.
Now that the levy has passed, the money will go toward keeping it open, paying the staff members and paying for new resources as well as current ones.
“There’s no better investment on the taxpayer dollars,” Nicholas Tepe, director of Athens County Public Libraries, said.
The current levy of $1 mill is no longer sufficient in maintaining the budget. The proposed $1.2 mill levy would have lasted a five-year term and would have kept the library operating at its current state and leave it in the same financial situation as it is now.
“I voted for that. We love our libraries,” Marilyn Holbert, an Athens County resident, said.
The library currently receives most of its funding from Ohio’s Public Library Fund, or PLF, and the recent five-year $1 mill levy. After the financial crisis of 2008, however, the state cut the Public Library Fund by about 30%. This resulted in cuts, layoffs and reduced hours at libraries statewide. The current levy was passed to make up for the lost state funds, which have remained relatively flat since 2009.
“Libraries are a huge asset, and yes, I very much support them,” Gerry Smith, an Athens County resident, said.
While state funding has remained flat, the library’s expenses have continued to rise. Now with the new levy, the library will be able to continue to operate at the same standard it has been.
“We’ve got areas in the county where they have zero broadband, yet we have an awful lot of school kids that have to do homework online or use online resources to get the information they need to do their homework,” Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said. “A lot of (students) will use the public library … to get their work done. So I think continually investing in our public libraries is critical, especially in Athens County.”
The new levy will cost the homeowner of a $100,000 property approximately $3.50 a month, which is an increase of about $0.85 per month from the previous levy.
“I think it is wonderful that the Athens community has once again supported our Athens Public Library,” Beth Clodfelter, the newly elected at-large councilwoman, said. “I think that the Athens Public Library system … provides such important resources to our low-income residents here in the county, to lots of kids and to all of us of all ages and people of all different interests because they have so many good resources.”