Hudson Library seeks renewal of 2.9-mill levy in May

Tax issue collects $2.6 million annually, provides two-thirds of facility's revenue

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Artist and library patron Nancy Gregg, of Stow, checks out several books from the circulation desk at the Hudson Library & Historical Society. Large plexiglass barriers separate the library staff from the guests to promote safety. The library is asking voters to approve Issue 1, a renewal of a 2.9-mill property tax levy that will appear on the May 4 ballot.

HUDSON — Library leaders are encouraging voters to head to the polls in May to renew an operating levy.

The Hudson Library and Historical Society is seeking renewal of a 2.9-mill levy for five more years on May 4. The property tax measure is appearing on the ballot as Issue 1.

The levy costs $72.10 per $100,000 of home valuation per year.

The levy generates about $2.6 million annually and makes up about 66% of the library's operating revenue, according to E. Leslie Polott, executive director and curator of the library and historical society. The remaining amount of funding for the library comes from the Ohio Public Library Fund.

"The library levy pays for our operating expenses, including staffing, supplies, utilities, facility maintenance as well as programming and collection development," Polott said.

If it's not renewed sometime in 2021, the levy will expire at the end of the year. If the tax issue is not renewed in May, Polott said officials would request that the issue be placed on the November ballot.

This is the only property tax levy that the library has on its books.

No inflationary increase sought

When this tax issue was renewed in past elections, the millage level was increased to collect a higher annual quantity of money to keep pace with rising costs.

This time, however, due to the challenging economic times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the library board decided against asking for an inflationary increase. They are seeking a simple renewal, where they are seeking to continue collecting the same amount of money annually for five more years.

Rob Swedenborg, a library board member and the treasurer of Hudson Citizens for a Strong Library, said he is "fairly sure" library officials would have sought a larger amount of funds if the COVID-19 pandemic was not happening.

"[The library] continues to draw more and more people," Swedendborg said. "The staff has come up with some very creative programming. The technology continues to change … We have at least an inflationary increase in our costs every year and we usually have to make an adjustment in that levy. We would've [sought an increase] this year but we thought it was the wrong time to do it."

Swedenborg said library officials are making adjustments in "areas that will not affect our patrons." For example, upgrades and repairs to the building will be postponed, but funding will continue to flow to services.

"The patrons will probably not see any effect of this," said Swedenborg, who added cuts would not be made to services, programming or purchases of materials.

"This [levy renewal request] will not increase our revenues," added Basil Musnuff, president of the library board and the chair of Hudson Citizens for a Strong Library. "…The level of revenue coming to the library from the levy will stay the same."

With costs steadily rising and the levy collecting a fixed quantity of money from year to year, the carryover amount typically declines toward the end of each levy cycle.

Swedenborg noted the library will be "using up our rainy day carryover" by the end of the next five-year period.

Not seeking more levy money, Musnuff said, could mean that "in five years, if something needs to be replaced, maybe we have to wait for the next levy cycle. We might not have the money to do [the work] exactly when we want to do [it]."

Efforts made to get out the vote

Musnuff said he and other levy committee members are working to get out the vote in May.

"It is important to us," Musnuff said. "It's important to the people that work at the library and we think it's important to the community."

He also observed the library draws people to the city.

"This library has done a tremendous amount for the community," said Musnuff. "I think it attracts people to our community…I think it adds value to the community and to your home values."

Swedenborg said he's had an "amazing" reaction from residents as he's gone door-to-door asking people if they would like a levy yard sign.

"They really love the library," Swedenborg said. "…We know people will support us, particularly with a renewal. The thing is to get them to come out [to vote].because it's just not an election that everybody's got on the top of their mind."

Changes made due to pandemic

The library has dealt with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest meeting room is used to quarantine materials after they are returned. Musnuff noted the library also purchased a temperature reader and a tool that counts the number of people entering the facility. There is a cap on the amount of patrons who can be inside the building during the pandemic.

Musnuff said adjustments were made to the building's HVAC system so that the air would flow "more outward toward the walls and then down."

Before, the air circulation had been, Musnuff said, "overly downward."

Swedenborg added there is "greater turnover in the air," and ultraviolet light is used in the air system.

Musnuff said some office space has been reconfigured to provide more social distance among employees.

Services to help patrons during the pandemic include touchless checkout, curbside pick-up and the increased use of the drive-up window.

"Even now there are people who are hesitant to go into the library and are still relying greatly on that window," Swedenborg said. "That requires more work for the staff, so the staff's been pretty busy pulling books off shelves for people and having them ready and bring them to them when they drive up."

Musnuff added that touchless checkout and drive-up window will continue to be offered after the pandemic ends. Curbside pick-up, however, will probably not continue.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on May 4. For more information, call the Summit County Board of Elections at 330-643=5200 or visit https://www.summitcountyboe.gov/

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.