Library and township pass referendum
By Richard L. Gaw
Currently, New Garden Township makes up 28 percent of the population of the eight municipality areas that are served by the Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett Square. The residents of the township make up 18 percent of the library's cardholders. And 23 percent of the library's assessed property values – all of which factor into what the township is supposed to kick back to the library. According to Bayard Taylor's calculations, New Garden is supposed to be responsible for 8.5 percent of the library's annual total budget.
Unfortunately, they fund only 1.3 percent, but it's a figure that very well may increase dramatically by next year.
Following discussions between members of the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors and library representatives, the board voted 5-0 at its Aug. 18 meeting to approve the inclusion of a referendum on upcoming voting forms, that asks township residents if they would be in favor of establishing an annual dedicated library tax for the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, beginning in 2015. The referendum will ask township residents if they would be willing to pay an increase of 0.0927 mills in real estate tax – translated to $37.08 per household – toward the library, annually. The motion for the adoption was introduced by supervisor Stephen Allaband.
The tentative wording on the referendum reads:
"Do you favor increasing New Garden Township's real estate tax by 0.0927 mills, the revenue from such increase to be used exclusively to fund the operation of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library? The current property tax is 1.62 mills."
The resolution will be submitted to the Chester County Department of Voter Services by Sept. 4.
“We were all very pleased [with the Board's decision],” said Donna Murray, Executive Director of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library. “We were hoping the supervisors would make a motion and vote to put a dedicated tax for the library, and that's exactly what happened.”
The vote that landed the referendum on the November ballot in New Garden was long in the making, Murray said, a discussion that began between the township and the library several months ago.
“The township has been very receptive and have been receptive to the idea of [contributing more funding to the library] for years,” she said. “In the last year, they've really taken action on it to ask, 'How can we make this happen?' Between the library, the supervisors and their solicitor Vince Pompo, it's now become, 'Let's make this happen.'”
Currently, of the eight municipalities the library serves in southern Chester County, only two – Kennett Township and East Marlborough – have a dedicated library tax. The remaining five municipalities – the Kennett Square Borough and Newlin, Pennsbury, Pocopson and West Marlborough townships – do not have a dedicated library tax, but Murray said that most of these municipalities fund the library close to -- and even beyond -- its fair share calculations, which are based on based on population, number of cardholders, volume of circulation and assessed property value. In 2013, the library received contributions that exceeded fair share figures in the two townships that have a dedicated library tax: $123,076 from East Marlborough Township, whose estimated fair share contribution stood at $70,435; and $150,000 from Kennett Township, whose fair share figure was $101,401.
In comparison, New Garden has consistently been the only township within the library's circulation reach to fall far below what library representatives have been asking them to contribute, Murray said. In 2013, for example, the library estimated that New Garden's fair share contribution should be $66,360, but only received $10,500 from the township. New Garden increased its support to the library in 2014, contributing $12,000.
In an Aug. 11 letter sent to New Garden Interim Township Manager Spence Andress, Murray and Michael R. Horak, treasurer of the library's board of trustees, spelled out the need for a dedicated library tax in New Garden Township, which stated that while state and county governments have underwritten 22 percent of the library's expenses, nearly half of the library's annual budget is funded by area municipalities.
Based on the aggregate assessed property value in New Garden Township currently standing at a little more than $811 million, Murray and Horak asked the township to contribute $75,000 annually to the library.
“What spurred the letter was an interest from the New Garden supervisors in realizing that they needed to do something differently,” Murray said. “It was in the spirit of working together to better support the library."
Murray admitted that if a dedicated library tax were initiated in all municipalities the library serves, things would be a little easier.
“We would have the financial security, that would enable us to budget for the future, and spell out what we want to do for the community much easier,” she said. “I would also be able to go to the supervisors with a a different presentation every year, one that would never have to include the request for more money, but focus on the wonderful things we're doing in our community.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.