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Chester County Press

New Garden to include library tax referendum on Fall ballot, again

01/24/2017 01:38PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

This November, for the second time in three years, New Garden Township's election ballot will include a library tax referendum for the Kennett Library. 
Resolution #766 was approved by a vote of 4-0 by the township's board of supervisors at its Jan. 17 meeting. The referendum will read as follows: "Do you favor increasing New Garden Township's real estate property tax by 0.100 mills, the revenue from such increase to be used exclusively to fund the operation of the Kennett Library?"
"I just can't tell you how delighted we are for this opportunity to gain more support for our local library," said Jim DeLuzio, the New Garden Township representative on the Kennett Library board. "Kennett Library has been a wonderful service to the community for a tremendous amount of time, and we're looking forward to continuing that."
DeLuzio told the board that if the referendum is passed, it would add for a home valued at $175,000 an additional $17.50 in taxes, that would be directed toward the library.
"If someone wanted to join the Hockessin Library, there is a fee of $40. This support of the Kennett Library puts them ahead by $23," DeLuzio said. "It's a win-win for everyone, especially at a time when libraries are proving their value to communities across the country."
The primary reason for including the referendum on the November ballot will be to boost the proportionally low annual contribution the township has been making to the library. 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. Last year, the library received $15,500 from the township.
Currently, the 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.
DeLuzio said if the referendum is passed, it would place the township into a "fair share designation."
In 2014, the New Garden board voted 5-0 to include a similar library tax referendum on that year's November ballot, asking township residents if they would be in favor of establishing an annual dedicated library tax for the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library -- as the library was called then -- beginning in 2015. If passed, each household in the township would have been required to pay a little more than $37 a year in a dedicated library tax.
The referendum was narrowly defeated, as 1,279 residents – or 42.67 percent – voted "Yes," and 1,404 – or 52.33 percent – voted "No."
Township solicitor Vince Pompo brought the board up to date on the continuing negotiations related to the sale of the township's sewer system to Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc., for the price of $29.5 million, which was officially approved on Aug. 15, 2016. Pompo said that Aqua filed its application for the sale with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Dec. 15, 2016, which is now being reviewed by the PUC.
"We continue to work on the most important aspects of the transaction, in order to get to the closing, and that's to resolve any title issues concerning the parcels of land that are integral to the system, as well as easements and rights to all sewer lines," Pompo said.
Pompo said that the schedule has been set up for a hearing that will be held in late April or early May, in order to have the application signed within 100 days of the date the application was filed. Given the fact that the township is a party to the sale, Pompo asked for and received approval from the board to authorize the filing a petition to permit the township to intervene in the proceedings of the sale.
Pompo also updated the board about the township's negotiations for the acquisition of Green Valley Farm, a 178-acre property, which the township entered officially entered into on Feb. 23, 2015, for the price of $2.3 million. Since then, the acquisition has been tarnished by nearly two years of delays, exacerbated by those on the other side of these negotiations. Warren Reynolds, a former township supervisor whose family has owned and managed this property since 1904, is currently serving a prison sentence for the possession of more than 500 images of child pornography. Meanwhile, his brother John is incapacitated and therefore incapable of managing his own affairs.
Subsequently, in 2016, the attorney for John Reynolds filed a petition with the Orphan's Court in the City of Philadelphia, for approval of the proposed conservation easement on the property and the agreement of sale. The Orphans' Court is a division of the Philadelphia Judicial System, which serves to protect the personal and property rights of all persons and entities who are otherwise incapable of managing their own affairs.
Over the course of these negotiations, supervisor Pat Little -- who is now the board chairman -- has served as the most vocal opponent of the township's involvement in acquiring the property. Twice -- on Jan. 19 and May 16, 2016 -- requested that the board again enter into a motion to reconsider the deal.
Pompo told the supervisors at the Jan. 17 meeting that a conference related to the case was held on Jan. 18 to examine how the case was being handled in Orphan's Court. He said that he would submit a request for a stipulation that would allow the Reynolds family and their attorneys to communicate with Pompo "as to the exact specifics of what's going on in this matter.
"We want to see if we can get the parties to agree that we should know what's going on in the proceedings," Pompo said. "There may be more substantive orders related to the issue, but no one can tell me that, at this time."
"My gut reaction is to go ahead and pull it, but I will hold off at least one more month, until we find out what's going on," Little said. "We always have the ability to do it again, but in my mind, this is past ridiculous."
"I think it's frustrating that it has taken so long to get to this point, and we're to the point now when we're filing with the hope that we can even get information," said supervisor Randy Geouque, who voted against the acquisition. "To me, its just been a very frustrating process."
In other township business, the board approved the appointment of 14 members to the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee. They are Steve Allaband, Jackie Manfredi Basciani, Jim DeLuzio, Steven Dooley, Ronald Dungey, Pat Little, Stan Lukoff, William Marsden, Jon Martin, Kati Parlier, Chris Robinson, Tony Scheivert, Julius Tilley and Jane Waggoner. The committee will meet on the second Monday of every month, and will include meetings that will be open to the public.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected] .
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