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Library director says Franklin County system reaching crisis stage

County asked to increase library tax

County asked to increase library tax

November 30, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Before the Board of County Commissioners unveiled its proposed 2008 budget Tuesday, representatives of the Franklin County Library System asked the board to increase its financial support by raising its dedicated library tax from 0.6 mills to 1 mill.

"We're reaching a crisis" due to static state funding, low pay, increasing costs and demand for more services, Executive Director Bernice Crouse told the board. State funding is the largest source of revenue at $852,000 this year, followed by $705,000 from the county tax, she said.

The budget for the system is $1,867,752 this year, with more than $966,000 going to salaries and $138,600 more for health insurance, according Crouse's figures.

Crouse said the state deeply cut funding several years ago and, while much of the money was later restored, state support has not kept up with inflation. Nor has revenue from the county tax, she said.

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The preliminary 2008 county budget does not include an increase in the library tax, which has remained unchanged for many years. The tax is levied in 18 of the county's 22 municipalities.

One mill is expected to generate $1,239,000 in 2008, county Fiscal Director Teresa Beckner said. At the current 0.6 mills, the library system would get about $743,000 next year.

"The state of Pennsylvania has made some misguided decisions regarding libraries," Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said. If the county raises its tax, he asked, "Aren't we, in effect, letting the state off the hook?"

"It's not the Pennsylvania Library System ... It's important the county take the leading role," Crouse said.

If the increase is granted, Crouse proposes using $172,500 for higher wages and salaries, and $87,500 for additional benefits for employees. A librarian with a master's degree starts at about $25,000 a year, said Crouse, while salaries paid in other Fifth Class counties average about 30 percent higher.

Raising the tax would allow more hours of operation, establish a schedule to replace aging equipment, fund planning and marketing, and improve online services, Crouse said.

Coyle Free Library Director Todd Reynolds said a university study shows that libraries in Pennsylvania return $5.50 to the economy for every $1 of tax money spent.

"We're a financial asset to the community, not just an intellectual one," he said.

In 2006, there were 386,639 visits to the system's seven libraries and Bookmobile, according to library figures. More than 41,000 individuals and families are cardholders, Crouse said.

The commissioners said they will consider the request. Final passage of the county budget is set for Dec. 20.

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