By Richard L. Gaw
When Donna Murray, the director of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, addressed the New Garden Board of Supervisors at its Oct. 14 meeting, she shared some alarming numbers with them.
In requesting $43,000 from New Garden for 2014, Murray said that the current per capita contributions from the eight municipalities in the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library service area currently ranges from a high of $21.54 from each Kennett Township resident to a low of 87 cents per person for those residents living in New Garden Township. The exceedingly small per capita contribution was made even more startling, given that of its thousands of card holders, those living in New Garden made up 18 percent of that number, second only to Kennett Township.
From its 2013 budget, which stands at $14,916,300, New Garden Township made a contribution of $10,500 to the library, from its general fund.
At its 2014 budget meeting the very next night, the supervisors decided to do something to improve those embarrassing numbers, and approved the introduction of a referendum on its spring 2014 ballot, which will ask voters if they would pay a dedicated library tax to the Bayard Taylor Library, which if approved, would result in an overall tax increase of 0.005 percent tax increase for each real estate parcel.
If the referendum passes, board of supervisors chairman Stephen Allaband said that the dedicated tax could raise between $30,000 to $31,000 for the library.
“We're putting it in the hands of our residents,” Allaband said. “The reality is that we would have to cut many of our existing services in the township in order to provide the library with more money. We felt that this was the best option, so that we could better meet the library's needs.”
This initiative comes on the heels of the annual report Murray presented the to Kennett Square Borough Council on Oct. 7, which included an update on its continuing efforts to find a new home. The current library building, opened in 1962, is 11,000 square feet, which Murray said is too small to accommodate the increasing needs of the community. The modern library, she said, needs to have more meeting spaces—and a diversity of spaces because people are using the library for different reasons. Students might come to take online courses. People who have home offices rely on the library for a change of scenery so that they can continue to do their work. Others want space to collaborate on projects. Business people use the library as a place to schedule meetings. Groups in the community need larger spaces for meetings.
Bayard Taylor Memorial Library officials started discussing the possibility of a new library more than a dozen years ago, and recent efforts to construct a new library remain in the planning stages. The library partnered with several entities—the Kennett YMCA, Anson B. Nixon Park, and Kennett Square Borough—on a fundraising enterprise that worked collaboratively on the Kennett Area Community Development Plan. Under one proposal, the library would have built a new facility on the borough-owned Weinstein property on East State Street. While each of the entities has moved forward with expansion plans on their own, representatives of each are still having discussions, Murray said.
Additional 2014 budget meetings for New Garden Township are scheduled for Nov. 5 and 26, beginning at 6:30 p.m. All meetings will be open to the public.
Chester County Press Staff Writer Steve Hoffman also contributed to this article.