WARREN - The largest library system in Trumbull County and the two smallest are at odds over how to divide public library funding they receive from the state.
Jim Wilkins, director of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, said all he's asking for is ''fair and equitable distribution'' of money the county receives from Ohio's public library fund, but directors at the Bristol Public Library and Kinsman Free Public Library say any money they lose from that pot would risk their existence.
''It's not that we're trying to do anything other than survive, and we can't survive if we give up any money,'' said Cheryl French, adult services director in Bristol.
The distribution agreement the seven systems have operated under for several years expires in December, and efforts to craft a new one have failed. The matter now is in the hands of the county's Budget Commission - Auditor Adrian Biviano, Treasurer Sam Lamancusa and Prosecutor Dennis Watkins - to determine how much each library will get of the $6.6 million available next year.
The commission should have a decision in the next 10 days. That decision can be appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals. The last appeal is the Ohio Supreme Court.
As it stands now, the Warren-Trumbull County Library receives 50 percent of the state library funding and what's left over is split between the other six systems: McKinley Memorial Library, 12.5 percent; Girard Free Library and Hubbard Public Library, 9.6 percent; Newton Falls Public Library, 7.4 percent; Kinsman, 6.1 percent; and Bristol, 4.7 percent.
Current library split
Percentage distribution; 2012 amount; 2013 amount if split is unchanged:
Bristol Public Library - 4.7 percent; $305,027; $312,928
Girard Free Library - 9.6 percent; $624,657; $640,838
Hubbard Public Library - 9.6 percent; $624,657; $640,838
Kinsman Free Public Library - 6.1 percent; $395,887; $406,141
McKinley Memorial Library - 12.5 percent; $812,866; $833,922
Newton Falls Public Library - 7.4 percent; $481,878; $494,361
Warren-Trumbull County Public Library - 50 percent; $3.2 million; $3.3 million
SOURCE: Trumbull County Auditor's Office
Wilkins said his board of trustees approved two funding distribution formulas, but to be implemented, there needed to be unanimous support among all seven, which didn't happen.
One formula, approved by the board in February and developed by directors of three other libraries, based the distribution of library funds on service population, square footage of facilities and annual hours of operation, Wilkins said.
It would have increased Warren's allocation to 59 percent, leaving 41 percent to split among the other libraries.
A second proposal, also developed by directors of other libraries, would have phased in an increase to a 55 percent allocation for Warren over seven years.
McKinley Memorial director Pat Finan, one of the crafters, said Warren would have received an additional 2 percent next year and 0.5 percent each year through 2019.
''It's a compromise,'' Finan said. ''Really, what the middle four libraries were looking at was crafting some type of compromise.''
Wilkins said in a news release the Warren-Trumbull County system represents about 70 percent of the population of Trumbull County and that the 2012 library fund distribution, per capita, allocates $103 to Bristol compared to about $22 for every person served by the Warren-Trumbull County system.
''We're not asking for per capita, that's not feasible, but something a little bit more reasonable than five times more than what we are getting,'' Wilkins said Tuesday.
An alternative budget filed at the auditor's office by the Warren-Trumbull County system in June shows it asking for 58.8 percent, which would give it $3.9 million, about $590,000 more than it would receive under the current formula.
French and Darla Bates, director in Kinsman, say they want the budget commission to maintain the current funding.
''We just all need to live within what's been dealt to us,'' Bates said.
Both systems are rebounding from state cuts thanks to voters last year approving additional levy funding and cannot afford to give up anymore, they say.
Bates said it allowed her to open the library four hours on Saturdays, and in Bristol, it allowed the library to stay open.
''In essence, it's just a matter of semantics, but we're taking that money and handing it back to another library,'' French said. ''That's how we are looking at it.''