Wright Memorial Public Library officials have placed a 1.5-mill levy on the March 17 ballot, that if approved, would pay for operations. This week, in front of city council, officials detailed why they say the levy is needed.
If passed, the levy would cost property owners about $52 annually per $100,000 of assessed home value. The levy would generate $474,307 annually for the library.
Director Kristi Hale says that property taxes to support Wright Library constitute 1.4% of Oakwood property owners’ total tax bill. Oakwood taxpayers do not support other library districts.
The levy would fund both long-term operations and essential repairs and improvements to the building, phased over time, and within the current footprint, according to Hale.
“Along with seeking tax support, the library is committed to raising private dollars for facility needs,” Hale said. “Philanthropy will be an important part of this process. Securing private grant monies along with state and local tax dollars is key to moving forward affordably.”
Hale said library officials have reached out to the public and conducted extensive research to find out what residents want from the library.
‘In the past four years, Wright Library has really been listening to the community to help identify its priorities for library service,” Hale said. “Residents have made clear to us that what they want is a lot of great collection of materials, educational programs, focus on children’s literacy, technology access and instruction.”
Research has also revealed that residents want the library to make its services more accessible to the elderly and disabled, as well as, make updates to its historic building, but to stay within the footprint of the current building, she said.
“We have developed a long-range facility plan that will allow the library to continue the service that Oakwood expects,” Hale said. “Unfortunately, however, we need some additional revenue in order to keep the library strong.”
She added, “This is not your grandmother’s library with a bunch of shushing librarians. Libraries have evolved across the country and here in Oakwood, and we are as relevant as ever.”
Hale told council that Oakwood, per capita, is one of the most used libraries in the country.
“We ranked 19th out of 1,251 libraries nationwide in usage,” she said, adding that ranking was a key factor in helping the library earn a four-star rating in the 2019 Library Journal Star Library report.
Wright Library Board President Joe Fulford said levy passage would help make up for funding cuts due to decreased state funding.
“Starting in 2008, state funding to public libraries was cut,” Fulford said. “Back then, we received about $1.5 million, we’ve rebounded now to about $1.2 million.”
The library — which has not had new tax revenue since 2009 — has cut costs, put off building maintenance, reduced staffing and sought private donations, according to Fulford. He said that Wright Library’s expenditures are expected to exceed revenues this year.
The library will host community information sessions about the upcoming operations levy. They are slated to begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11.; 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, and at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29.
The information meetings will be held at Wright Library and are open to the public.
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