The Shaker Heights Public Library board of trustees has placed a 1.9 mill operating levy on the May 8, 2018 ballot, sparking strong disagreement among Shaker voters.
The levy, known as Issue 7, is the first funding increase request for the library in 21 years. For the owner of a $100,000 home, the levy would add $67 in taxes each year. Funds would generate approximately $1.5 million per year, which would be used to renovate and improve services at the Bertram Woods and Main Library branches.
Issue 7 has been endorsed by various community groups, such as the Shaker Heights League of Women Voters and the Democratic Club, and by elected officials, including Board of Education President Jeffrey Isaacs. In addition to the pro-Issue 7 campaign — For Shaker Library — an anti-Issue 7 group named Future Shaker Library has formed. More than 475 Shaker residents have signed the group’s petition to research joining the the Cuyahoga County library system, including former Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and former Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mary Boyle.
Future Shaker Library, whose slogan is “Stop, Study, Decide,” has pointed out the possibility of merging with the Cuyahoga County Public Library system — an option they claim the board of trustees has not fully researched. According to an FSL position paper, “In the last several years, the SHPL conducted a market study as well as a facilities study, but did not seriously, through an in-depth process, consider a merger into the CCPL system.”
Shaker voters will decide May 8 at their polling location.
For Issue 7: Our Library is Worth It
Chad Anderson, Co-Chairman of the For Shaker Library Committee
Thank you to the staff of The Shakerite and to its readers for your interest in Issue 7, the Shaker Library levy. With Issue 7, voters will decide just one thing: whether property owners in the Shaker school district should pay 1.9 mills more of property tax to help fund renovations to Shaker Library’s aging buildings and expand its operations.
We strongly believe that our Shaker Library is worth this additional cost. Shaker Library is a great local library; it is in the 97th percentile in quality among libraries with similar budgets nationally. It is an active partner with the Shaker schools, and its two branches are within walking distance of both the middle school and Shaker high.
Shaker Library is ours. Shaker residents have built our library through effort and investment; members of its governing board all live in the Shaker school district and are accountable to their Shaker neighbors. We have a library that specializes in meeting the needs of Shaker residents who use its services at rates three to four times the national average.
Shaker Library also helps create equity for Shaker residents. Some of us have different ways to meet our needs for information, educational opportunities, and digital access, but for many members of our community, Shaker Library is the only option. For them, Shaker Library is an absolute necessity.
The arguments made by Issue 7’s opponents, however, all boil down to a single claim: Our property taxes are too high and Shaker Library is not worth the additional cost.
It’s true that Shaker Heights does have high property taxes. For every $100,000 in home value, a Shaker property-owner must pay roughly $3,931 annually in property taxes to the city, schools, and library. Of this amount, only $118 goes to the library; the schools receive almost 30 times what the library receives. Issue 7 would increase what the library receives by $67 per year for every $100,000 in home value.
Inclusion in the county library would require that Shaker Library go out of business and hand over all of its assets to the county library, with no guarantee of what Shaker residents would get in return. Shaker property owners might receive an annual reduction in property tax of $42 per $100,000 in home value, which could be wiped out the first time the county library raises taxes.
In their independent evaluation of Issue 7, the Shaker Heights League of Women Voters agreed with Shaker Library’s conclusion that inclusion is a bad deal for Shaker Heights: “[The Shaker Library Board] did due diligence in seriously investigating the possibility of joining the Cuyahoga County Public Library system . . . Trading independence and all valued assets permanently for a minimal increase in taxes, representing a small percentage of overall taxes, is precipitous.”
Shaker voters should instead invest a small amount in an institution that it has been growing for more than 80 years. Please vote FOR Issue 7 on May 8th. Our Shaker Library is worth it.
Against Issue 7: Stop, Study, Decide
Alan Melamed, Co-Chairman of Future Shaker Library
“Voters Should Reject Issue 7 – and make the Shaker Heights Library Board do its merger homework.” Those words from the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial sum up the argument against Issue 7, the Shaker Heights Library levy.
Issue 7 offers a choice between protecting local control or reaching beyond Shaker’s borders to explore regional options that offer outstanding services, lower cost and greater long-term financial stability.
Change is always difficult, but, for the past 50 years, Shaker has embraced change and come out at the other end as one of the most vibrant, successful communities in our area. Shaker’s history of taking difficult challenges when others ran away has provided a path to maintaining itself as one the most sought-after communities in northeast Ohio.
Now, Shaker faces another challenge — how to best provide for the future of the Shaker Heights Public Library. The Shaker Heights Library board is proposing a plan to increase property taxes with a 1.9 mill levy to sustain it for the short term, but without a plan for the long-term financial stability of the library.
Those opposing the levy include former Mayor Earl Leiken; former Mayor Judy Rawson; council members Tres Roeder and Earl Williams; school board member and past President William Clawson; school board member Heather Weingart; Mary Boyle, former county commissioner; Lee Fisher, former lieutenant governor and director of the Ohio Department of Development; Peggy Zone Fisher, CEO and president of the Diversity Center; Martin Kolb, chairman of the mayor’s financial task force and former member of the school board; Judy Stenta, former school board member and longtime school and community activist; Trent Meyerhoefer, member of the Audit and Finance Committee of the Shaker Heights City Schools; along with hundreds of residents across Shaker Heights and the school district.
The request of those opposing the levy is very simple: Defeat the levy and tell the SHPL to do its homework and fully investigate the best option for the future of the library, by requesting the Cuyahoga County Public Library to conduct a study to see if a merger will result in a lower-cost, higher-quality option with greater long-term financial stability.
For the first time in Shaker’s history, we have representatives unwilling to exercise their due diligence to fully study an option that may be better for both the library and the community than the one it is proposing.
Those endorsing a “no” vote on Issue 7 believe that Shaker cannot abandon its history of thoughtful, collaborative, comprehensive study before making critical decisions That’s why we urge a No vote on Issue 7 and ask voters to: STOP the tax levy by voting “no” on Issue 7 on May 8, STUDY the options including merging with CCPL and then DECIDE the best course for the future of the Library and our community.