Shaker Heights leaders clash over 1.9-mill tax levy

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio - In a former schoolhouse filled with hundreds of books, it's hard to see how the next chapter starts for the Shaker Heights Public Library as the board pushes for a 1.9-mill tax levy.

The levy comes as technology plays a large role in the updates the library says it needs. 

They didn't need as much room for computers in the 1990's when the Library filled the old elementary school, but now the children's computer space is in the middle of a hallway.

Just around the corner are small study rooms with hard to find electrical outlets.

"25 years ago, it was probably a great space and people weren't using technology and bringing in laptops and needing to spread out," said Library Director Amy Switzer. "But today, they definitely are.'

The community conversation is over how to make it better.

The Shaker Heights Library Board of Trustees, led by President Brian Gleisser, is taking a levy increase to the voters in May.

"If your house is valued at $100,000, it's an increase of $67 a year," said Gleisser.

The median home value in Shaker Heights is about $200,000, costing those homeowners about $140 every year.

"We believe it's a very reasonable ask," said Gleisser.

At City Hall, Mayor Earl Leiken is pushing for the public library to be included in the Cuyahoga County system, where the tax burden on county residents is less than what Shaker Heights residents pays right now.

"We would be part of a broader system that serves the county as a whole, but also serves our community as well," said Leiken.

He says it would join a long list of other services that have been regionalized, like sewer maintenance, water service and S.W.A.T. teams for public safety, all for less in taxes.

Gleisser says in a community that already has high taxes, the burden from the library is minimal.

"It will save a few dollars," said Gleisser. "Will it have an impact on Shaker being a high tax community? No."

Voters weigh in on that levy at the polls in May. The library board says they can always re-evaluate if that levy is voted down.

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