(March 27, 2011) Library patrons may wonder how the current struggle to balance Ohio’s next biennium budget will affect library funding. On March 15, the Governor sent his proposed budget to the Legislature. It includes a reduction in the amount of money sent to the Public Library Fund during the two years of the next biennium budget, July 2011—June, 2013. Because the State budget year begins in July and the library’s budget year begins in January, one needs to do some
additional calculation to figure out what effect state-level changes will have on the library’s funding.
The Public Library Fund, which provides almost all of Minerva Public Library’s revenue, is funded each month by 1.97% of the money collected by the State in the General Revenue Fund (GRF) in the preceding month. That PLF money is distributed monthly among Ohio’s 88 counties using a set formula. At the county level, the County Auditor divides up the month’s PLF money for the county among the public libraries with service areas in that county using whatever local formula has been agreed upon. MPL receives money from three counties, with approximately 73.4% of the library’s PLF revenue coming from Stark, 24.3% from Carroll, and the remainder from Columbiana.
The Governor’s proposal is to freeze the PLF revenue at 95% of that distributed in fiscal year 2011. Regardless of what the state collects in the GRF during the two years of the next biennium budget, the PLF will be funded based on the amount of money distributed to the PLF between July, 2010 and June, 2011 less 5%. In other words, the distribution for July, 2011 will be 95% of the July 2010 amount; the distribution for August 2011 will be 95% of the August, 2010 amount, and so forth.
General Revenue Fund receipts since August, 2010, are running ahead each month, for once, of the certified estimate provided by Ohio Dept. of Taxation. And because the PLF is still funded by the 1.97% formula, PLF money goes up as the GRF goes up. That float will continue through June. In July, when the freeze begins, revenue will drop, but will still run ahead of 2009 receipts. Therefore, the library should finish 2011 with around $670,000 in PLF receipts, about $22,000 more than we had expected to receive this year. In 2012, the library should receive $640,000, just under the $647,000 received in 2010, putting the library back at a funding level lower than at any time since 1997. In 2013, we know what the fixed amount will be for January through June, but don’t know what to expect from the next biennium budget which begins in July, 2013.
On the whole, the Governor’s proposal is perhaps the best libraries could hope for given the difficulty the State has in balancing this next budget. The funding proposal provides predictability for the next 24 months of funding, and does not cut the PLF in the drastic way that is proposed for the Local Government Fund.