COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Voters will decide whether to supply additional funding to the Columbus Metropolitan Library on Nov. 7.

The Columbus library levy, or Issue 16, would bring in $39 million for the library system during its first year. If passed, the library’s current revenue of about $81 million would increase to about $120 million.

Like other levies, it’s measured in “mills,” or one-tenth of a cent. For each $100,000 of market value, the 1.5-mill continuing levy with no expiration would increase property owners taxes by $53. 

The library first proposed a 15-year levy in 1986, followed by a renewal in 2000 and a new levy with an increase in millage in 2010 – all approved by voters. 

The proposed levy would be in addition to the 2.8-mill continuing levy that was passed in 2010. Due to a law designed to protect property owners from unvoted tax increases, the increase of property values does not affect the amount of money libraries receive. 

As property taxes have increased with reappraisals, the amount of money the library receives remains the amount decided in 2010. The existing levy now operates at an effective rate of 2.18 mills.

Why the library needs $39 million more each year to operate comes down to inflation, according to Columbus Metropolitan Library CEO Patrick Losinski. 

“Costs go up for libraries, just like they do for all of us,” Losinski said. “Over the past 13 years, our annual increase in revenue has been four-tenths of 1% per year. So there’s a real logical argument to say after 13 years at that level of increase, the library’s funding has to be secured for the future, it just can’t go on forever.”

Residents of Franklin County who reside within the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s district will vote on the levy. Residents within the Bexley, Upper Arlington, Grandview, Southwest, Worthington and Westerville school districts will not vote on the levy, since they reside within service areas of other library systems. 

If passed, taxpayers would begin seeing a new tax rate in 2024, as the library would begin collecting revenue. 

Services the library provides

The Columbus Metropolitan Library system has 24 buildings and provides a wide array of services to nearly 1 million residents.

Among the services the library provides are kindergarten readiness camps, summer reading programs and school help centers. It also helps supply schools with books, and food to students in the summer.

“We deliver a bin of about 30, 40 books to 600 classrooms in Franklin County each month,” Losinski said. “We take over the school nutrition program during the summer months. … Kids who are hungry during the school year are hungry in June, July and August as well. So we’re providing that service.”

All Columbus library locations are equipped with meeting and study rooms, according to Losinski. In support of high school students, libraries offer volunteer experience, an internship fair, ACT and SAT prep classes and career programs. 

Although many of the library’s services are catered towards children and students, there are numerous services beneficial to adults. 

“Think about people who don’t have access to either WiFi or broadband in their home, [they] are using the library for that service,” Losinski said. “We have about 1.8, 1.9 million users each year who come in to request internet time or to use our WiFi services.”

The library also provides assistance to those looking for jobs and those who need help learning technology. 

“Then we look at the adults who might come in for technology training, folks who oftentimes are starting at ground zero in terms of their technology skills,” Losinski said. 

How the levy money would be used

The Columbus Metropolitan Library is funded by two primary sources: the state’s public library fund and voter-approved local property tax levy.

“These sources of money really fund everything that the library does,” Losinski said. “So if you think about the services and programs we offer, if you think about the books and the electronic resources that we buy … and finally if you think about our facilities needs, [they] are taken care of with these dollars.”

While library officials haven’t made a specific budgeted list available, the library’s website states the money will go toward “materials, resources, technology, programs and facilities.”

Losinski also said he expects the levy to last the library at least 10 years; so if the levy passes, it would be at least a decade before the library asks voters for funds again. 

“Back in 2010, we said to the voters, ‘We won’t come back for at least 10 years,’ so it’s been 13 years, so we’re really proud of that cause in some ways we’ve not only made 100% of our promise, we’ve made 130% of our promise,” Loskinski said. 

What if the levy fails?

Without the new levy, a five-year projection predicts the library would have a negative balance by 2026: specifically a deficit of over $11 million. 

If the levy fails, Loskinski said library officials would go back to the drawing board, make adjustments and decide when to try again.

“Hopefully, there wouldn’t be an immediate crash, [and] people would begin to see those changes over time,” Losinski said. “But I think the library would work very hard to make sure that we would be back in front of our community to help them understand what may be lost over a long period of time if funding isn’t secured.”

Losinski said the library would likely be in front of voters again as early as next year.

Voting by mail

Absentee ballot request forms must be delivered, either by mail or in person, to county boards of elections by 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. Print out an absentee ballot request form here.

Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6 and have until Nov. 13 to arrive at boards of election. If dropping your ballot off in person, you have until 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7.

You do not need a photo ID to vote absentee.

Voting in person

Early in-person voting continues through Nov. 5 at county boards of elections:

  • Oct. 24-27: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 30: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 31: 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 1-3: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 4: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Nov. 5: 1 to 5 p.m.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Anyone in line by 7:30 p.m. will be able to cast their ballots. The Franklin County Board of Elections recommends confirming your polling location by checking your voter record here or by calling 614-525-3100.

Ohio requires a form of photo identification to vote in person. Valid forms of photo ID include:

  • Ohio driver’s license
  • State of Ohio ID card
  • Interim ID form issued by the Ohio BMV
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • U.S. military ID card
  • Ohio National Guard ID card
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ID card