The Suburbanite
  • Canal Fulton Library seeks 1-mill tax levy

  • The Canal Fulton Public Library is seeking a continuous 1-mill additional levy on the May 7 ballot to maintain its current operations. Library officials say that declining state funds over the past several years have created a need for the district to seek the property tax.

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  • It’s been two years since the Canal Fulton Public Library began closing its doors an hour earlier on weekdays, but employees still must occasionally turn away patrons who approach the doors after 8 p.m.
    “It’s heartbreaking when you see young families come in and we are closed,” Library Director Marsha Wagner said.
    The library reduced its operating hours after it saw its state funding — its largest source of funding — cut by 20 percent over a two-year period. State funding represents nearly two-thirds of the library’s revenue.
    The library has never fully recovered, Wagner said.
    For the last two years, the library’s Board of Trustees has plugged the shortfall by using its cash reserves. Those reserves, which stood at $324,827 in 2011, will drop to $165,337 for 2014.
    “Without additional funds, we’ll eliminate our cash reserve altogether,” Wagner said.
    The library district is seeking a continuous 1-mill property tax levy on the May 7 ballot to sustain operations. If approved, the levy would generate $235,308 a year for the district and cost the owner of a $100,000 home in the Stark and Summit county portions of the Northwest Local School District an additional $31 a year. Residents now pay $31 a year for the 1-mill operating levy that voters approved in 2005.
    The library, which serves 13,328 people in Canal Fulton, Lawrence Township, Doylestown, Clinton and New Franklin, does not receive money from the recently approved Stark County District Library levy.
    Wagner, who will retire in June, said the district opted to seek a continuous, or permanent, tax because it takes time and money to mount a levy campaign — and because the library’s needs for the money aren’t going away.
    “We’re not going to pretend that we won’t need that money and that some time in the future the levy will come off,” Wagner said. “We’ve not had that (state) money restored to us and we anticipate that (cuts are) going to continue.”
    Board President Bob Richmond said trustees haven’t determined what services may be reduced if the levy fails. He said the board wanted to give voters the chance to decide what level of service they want.
    The library spends the bulk of its budget on staff. During the cuts in 2010, employees took a pay freeze, an unpaid week off work and began paying 10 percent of their health insurance to help reduce costs.
    Since then, Wagner said, trustees have tried to lessen the financial burden for employees by giving them 2 percent salary raises in 2011 and 2012. She said the increases also were necessary to help retain talented workers.
    Canal Fulton pays its librarians a beginning salary of $21,840. The average starting salary for librarians throughout the Midwest region is $40,624, according to a “Library Journal” study on 2011 graduates.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We’ve had four reference librarians in the past five years,” said Wagner, who earns $50,000 a year. “You can’t come out of school with $180,000 in debt (due to college loans) and earn $12 an hour.”
    This year, trustees also set aside $19,500 to study water problems that has prevented paint from adhering to the building’s walls and has eroded the mortar in the basement. The library obtained a $5,340 grant to help pay for the study, but whether any repairs can be done soon depends on the report’s findings and available funds, Wagner said.
    Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or kelli.young@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @kyoungREP

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