Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chaotic funding of county libraries

Until recently, Manheim Township was served by under 2000 square foot rented facility on Granite Run and was a branch of the Lancaster Public Library , which has its main facility on Duke Street in the City of Lancaster. At the Monday Township commissioners meeting, $7.6 million was budgeted for a 20,000 square foot new library with a 9,000 square foot basement, about half the size of the downtown facility.

For 2009, Manheim Townshp has budgeted $8 per capita ($269,475) towards library operations.

In comparison, the City of Lancaster has budgeted $1.77 per capita ($100,000).

Another branch of the Lancaster Public Library (LPL) is located in Mountville and serves Mountville - $5 per capita, and East Hempfield Township – only $1.12 per capita.

In total, the average appropriation from LPL's service area embracing fourteen municipalities and serving 187,788 county residents is only $1.56 per capita. For the entire county, all 60 municipalities, the per capita appropriation for library services for LPL's three branches and the other regional libraries is only $2.88 per capita.

Manheim Township can afford to build and support a library and is to be commended for its solid support of public education.

However, the City can only afford meager annual assistance and nothing towards remodeling and expansion of the Duke Street facility.

The funds that would have enabled the remodeling and expansion at LNP's Duke Street branch had been promised by the state and local benefactors, although some county contribution was anticipated. (Millions of dollars of promised earmarked state funding were redirected at the last minute to offset cost overruns for the Convention Center Project.)

The above suggests all the more reason for a county wide Library Authority and a small county real estate tax, perhaps a quarter of a mill. These two reforms, conforming the administration and funding of countywide libraries with how successful library systems operate elsewhere, would assure that all children and adults throughout the county improvement and recreation.