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With referendum defeated, library looks to gain stronger foothold in township

11/12/2014 10:40AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

A single question, written in the form of a referendum and included on a ballot given to every single resident of New Garden Township who voted on Nov. 4, read as follows:

"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 Library?"

The inclusion of the referendum stemmed from a 5-0 vote by the members of the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors in August that approved the inclusion of a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot that asked township residents if they would be in favor of establishing an annual dedicated library tax for the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, beginning in 2015. If passed, each household would pay a little more than $37 a year in a dedicted library tax.

By the end of the day, the residents had provided their answer: 1,279 residents – or 42.67 percent – voted "Yes," and 1,404 – or 52.33 percent – voted "No."

Rather than place the blame for the vote on what some would call the short-sightedness of a few New Garden residents to understand the value of what added funding for the library could bring to the township, the library is looking at the vote as an opportunity.

"We deeply appreciate the support of the residents who voted in favor of the library, and why by their vote demonstrated that they understand the value of the library, to them personally and its role in sustaining our community," said Donna Murray, executive director of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library. "I think this vote threw light on an opportunity for us. I look at the close vote as an opportunity to get into the community and get people to hear the message of what we do. It's all on us to do this."

The primary reason for including the referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot was due to a proportinately low annual contribution the township has been making to the library. Currently, New Garden Township makes up 28 percent of the population of the eight municipality areas that are served by the library, about 18 percent of its cardholders, as well as 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 every year.

According to the library's fair share calculations, New Garden is supposed to be responsible for 8.5 percent of the library's annual total budget, but only funds 1.3 percent to the library every year. In recent years, the township has given the library $10,500 in annual contributions; this year, they increased that figure to $12,000 -- about one dollar per resident.

Murray plans to refer to the close referendum vote when she and her colleagues appeal to the New Garden supervisors for the township's annual funding. Eventually, Murray said that she would like to see New Garden provide its fair share figure of $66,000 per year, but would accept a contribution for half of that.

Murray said that the vote told her and her colleagues that the voting results of the referendum was a clear indication that the library needs to increase its presence in the township. One idea being looked at involves placing a book drop box at the township building on Starr Road, which would enable cardmembers of the library to deposit borrowed books closer to home. She also mentioned that she and her staff will brainstorm ideas for future programming in the township.

"My whole time here since I became director has been spent making the library valuable in the community," Murray said. "I feel that we're doing that. We're changing with the times, and adding value. Now, we need to communicate, not only to New Garden and not only because of this vote, but to all of the communities we serve."

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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