MOUNT VERNON — John Chidester, director of the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, met with the Knox County Board of Commissioners on Thursday to ask for approval to put a library levy on the fall ballot. Even after Gov. Ted Strickland’s threatened 51 percent cut to the state’s libraries was reduced to 31 percent by the Legislature, libraries have been suffering from an erosion of funding in the last 10 years, according to Chidester.
“The question for the people to answer is ‘Do you want your library back?’” Chidester said, noting that state funding was frozen in the aftermath of 2001. Not only has it not grown with the rest of the state budget, he said, it has actually decreased to almost half of what it once was. Chidester said he was proud of the library system built in Knox County over the years, but that it has been eroding in recent years.
Chidester said he was very nervous right now because emergency budget cuts have forced the library to reduce staff by 25 percent, and he feels more reductions are coming.
The levy being proposed by the library board is 1 mill.
“This would help buffer us from some of the ruder shocks to come,” Chidester said, adding that it was envisioned as a long-term supporting levy, as opposed to a smaller, temporary fix. He said the estimated cost for a $100,000 house would be $3 per month; the levy would generate over $1 million to support the countywide library system.
Commissioner Robert Wise said he would support the request to pursue the levy, adding that, ideally, he would like to see a lower request. Commissioner Teresa Bemiller agreed, and expressed her support.
Commissioner Allen Stockberger said that although he was not against the library, he felt the request was too much, and voted against it.
Chidester’s levy request was therefore approved by a 2 to 1 vote.