Library requests tax increase

BY STACI WILSON

The board of directors of the Susquehanna County Historical Society and Free Library Association requested a county library tax increase in 2013 and a $250,000 grant from the expected county impact fee allocation at the Oct. 10 county commissioners’ meeting.

In a report to the commissioners, the association’s treasurer, Larry Newhart, advocated for a tax increase from .033 mills to .0775 mills.

The impact on the average tax bill, Newhart said, would equal a raise of about $10.50, bringing the library tax up to about $19 per year on average.

Newhart said the increase would enable to library to restore its hours of operations. The library, including the main branch in Montrose, and the satellite branches, reduced hours of operation over the past two years in an effort to handle state funding decreases.

Newhart said the $250,000 impact fee grant would be used over a five-year time period to upgrade technology, make building repairs and replace Historical Society equipment.

Commissioner Michael Giangrieco said a recent advertisement placed in local publications asking for a tax increase made it appear that taxpayers were being asked to fund issues relating to natural gas industry researchers utilizing the historical society records.

Association President Toby Anderson said gas researchers are not the biggest issue facing the library.

“Our biggest issue is the hours cut to employees,” Anderson said.

The advertisement showed that 70 percent of the library’s budget goes to pay salaries and benefits while just over 12 percent of the funds are used for books and materials.

Kim Harwood, also a member of the Association’s board, said that the issue of researchers generally impacted only the Historical Society, which makes up only about 10 percent of the library’s annual budget.

In addition to the request for funds, Newhart also provided a brief overview of the county library.

He told the commissioners that the library sponsors reading and outreach programs, as well as database and internet access.

“There are waiting lines for the use of computer terminals,” he said.

He also spoke of demonstrated community support for the library with $1-1/2 million raised to build a new library and over 200 volunteers involved in fundraising efforts.

“We can’t continue to rely on fundraising for 40 percent of our budget,” Newhart said.

If given the tax increase and impact fee money requested, Newhart said the library would be able to begin construction of its new facility next year and restore its operating hours.

The commissioners did not indicate whether or not they would grant the library board’s requests.

In a 2-1 vote, the commissioners agreed to sign a Criminal Justice Unified Case Management agreement with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania for the district attorney and adult probation offices at a cost of about $33,767 for three years.

Giangrieco opposed the move stating he did not have enough information to be convinced it was worth the expenditure of funds.

The system shares data between agencies in a state standard format.

Commissioner Alan Hall explained CCAP would house the system’s hardware, reducing the overall cost burden to the county.

Four former Susquehanna County Transporation vehicles are being offered for sale.

The county received no bids for refuse dumpsters for the period of Dec. 1, 2012 through Nov. 30, 2014. The commissioners will re-advertise for bids.

Gibson Twp. resident Toni Sinkiewicz told the commissioners she had filed a formal complaint regarding the county subdivision and land development ordinance. She alleged a solid waste facility was being operated without proper permitting on a property near her home.

Rick Ainey, of New Milford Borough, also told the commissioners he had questions about the enforcement of the county’s subdivision and land development ordinance.

Giangrieco said, “A private individual shouldn’t have to take on the burden of enforcing ordinances.”