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Chester County Press

Funding for libraries and parks is money well spent

The reading room at the Chester County Historical Society Library before opening. Librarian Jasmine Smith said after genealogists, people doing research on properties are the next largest group to use the library. (Photo by Natalie Smith)

Libraries have been in the news here in southern Chester County.

Three weeks ago, Kennett Square Borough residents went to the polls and approved a referendum to increase the borough’s real estate tax by .2000 mills specifically to fund the operations of the Kennett Library and Resource Center.

Meanwhile, in Oxford, borough officials have received a request from the Oxford Library to increase the funding that the borough provides each year to the library.

Municipalities are grappling with many different budgetary issues this time of the year. The requests for funding are going to exceed the available resources—always. Choices need to be made.

First, we applaud the residents of Kennett Square Borough for supporting dedicated funding for the library. We hope that Oxford Borough officials will find a way to fund the request from the Oxford Library, as well as the funding request for the Oxford Area Recreation Authority Park, which is also being discussed this budget season.

Libraries are tremendous community resources—of course. People visit public libraries for many purposes – to check out a book or DVD, to find reference information or do research, or to use a library computer. Libraries also offer many different programs for people of all ages.

Studies have shown that public libraries are used by adults, school-age and preschool children, teachers, retirees, business people and others for meeting educational, personal, family and work-related needs, in addition to recreation and entertainment. Libraries are a community hub.

Pennsylvania’s libraries face significant financial challenges and if they don’t receive the support they need, the community suffers. Available resources might be limited. Hours might be cut. In some instances, funding shortages have forced libraries to face the prospect of closing.

So it’s important to support the local library. That support delivers a strong return on investment.

Pennsylvania’s 630 public library outlets, serving 12 million residents provide a return on investment of $5.50 in benefits for every $1 of tax support.

In Oxford, the funding requests from the library and the Oxford Area Recreation Authority are modest and will have a minimal impact on the overall budget.

The funding request submitted by the Oxford Area Recreation Authority (OARA) was to increase funding from $1.00 per capita (currently totaling $5,845) to $1.50 per capita in 2024 (totaling $8,767.50) and then increasing the per capita contribution by $0.25 through 2028. By 2028, the level of funding would be $2.50 per capita, or a total of $14,612. This request was ultimately tabled at the council meeting.

Funding for libraries and parks is money well spent. 

We hope that Oxford Borough officials—as well as elected officials in the neighboring townships will find a way to meet the requests of the Oxford Library and the Oxford Area Recreation Authority.