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Chester County Press

Library leaders pitch New Garden referendum

10/31/2017 11:47AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Before a small but attentive audience at the New Garden Township Building on Oct. 24, the director of the Kennett Library and three of its board of directors made a case for the residents of the township to vote in favor of a referendum on the township's Nov. 7 ballot which, if approved, would serve as a yearly dedicated tax, and would direct about $80,000 a year from the township to the library.
Library Director Megan Walters was joined by board Vice President Jeff Yetter, board Treasurer/Secretary Bill McLaughlin and New Garden Township's library appointee Jim DiLuzio, in an hour-long discussion about what passage of the library referendum will do to help the library defray its annual operating costs.
For the second time in three years, the township's election ballot will include a library tax referendum for the Kennett Library, which the township's board approved at its Jan. 17 meeting. The referendum reads:
"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?"
Given that the average assessed value of a home in the township is $204,890, the referendum, if passed, would cost an average household in the township a little more than $20 every year, or about 39 cents a week. The dedicated library tax would go into effect in 2018, and would be tacked on to the township's annual tax assessment for each household.
If passed, the increased funding from New Garden to the library will go directly toward general operating expenses, which include the purchase and replenishment of books and e-books; payroll; videos, computers and internet services; access to data bases; building maintenance; insurance and the cost of phones and electricity.
The presentation by the library was part of a full-court press of information and appeal to New Garden voters – which have also included emails to all library cardholders in the township, as well as signage and mailers – to not repeat the results of the 2014 election, when a similar referendum was defeated, when 52.33 percent of voters rejected it.
While state and county funding, grants, corporate and private donations and fundraising events help pay for 72 percent of the library's operating expenses, “that leaves us to find additional sources for the 28 percent that must be provided for,” said DiLuzio, who called dedicated municipal library taxes the primary method of funding libraries in most of the country. And yet, he said that of the eight municipalities who help fund the library's operating costs each year, only two pay their fair share, and  do so through an annual dedicated library tax: East Marlborough and Kennett townships.
Passage of the referendum will significantly increase 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, the contribution was increased to $15,900.
Yetter stressed that municipal taxes – such as funding from the New Garden referendum, if passed – will not be dedicated toward the construction of the planned new Kennett Library, which is  is scheduled to be situated on the Weinstein lot on State Street in Kennett Square.
“We [the Kennett Library] have elected not to take any municipal funding, because municipal funding comes with an increase in costs, so we're going to be going after foundations and private donors,” he said.
Yetter added that the schematics of the library are due to be completed in December, which will be followed by a feasibility study next March, which will lead into a fundraising period. Construction on the new library, he said, is planned to begin midway through 2019, and is scheduled to open 2020.
“Libraries are landmarks, like our homes, like our places of worship and the places where we socialize  and like the places where we work,” DiLuzio said. “They mark things in our lives. They give us direction, that sense of place and purpose.
“The Kennett Library is free to everyone, but it is not free to operate.”  
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]