Greensburg Hempfield Area Library to seek help from taxpayers

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 12 hours ago Gabriella Gennaro spends a lot of time at the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library, but she's not sure she wants her family's tax bill going up to support the institution. “Maybe. It depends....

Greensburg Hempfield Area Library to seek help from taxpayers

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Updated 12 hours ago

Gabriella Gennaro spends a lot of time at the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library, but she's not sure she wants her family's tax bill going up to support the institution.

“Maybe. It depends. I think it's a great library, but we already pay a lot, and we already support the library through our taxes,” she said last week.

The library has eight months to make its case to taxpayers in Greensburg and Hempfield. After two years of discussion, it plans to put a referendum on the ballot in November to establish a new property tax for library funding.

“There is a lot of work to do,” library board President Jeanne Smith said.

The board has a referendum committee that is working on key points, including the rate library officials will ask property owners to pay.

“We're still working on the question of what will be enough to ask,” said Brenda White, chairwoman of the referendum committee. “The next step is to solidify what our plan is.”

The committee is drafting two plans. Plan A is the best-case scenario, highlighting what the library will be able to do with a steady source of funds if the referendum passes, Smith said.

“Plan B is what happens if we run out of money, as Jeannette had, and what will occur if we don't have constant and reliable funds,” she said.

Jeannette Public Library had to close for two months in 2015 when it ran out of money. Jeannette voters last year approved a 1-mill property tax increase to support the library.

Greensburg Hempfield Area Library spends about $700,000 a year. It usually brings in less.

Contributions from state and local governments cover a little more than a quarter of the budget, with donations and grants making up the rest. These are unreliable at best, Smith said.

“It's very hard for any organization to plan or budget when you don't know what you have coming in,” she said.

A 1-mill property tax to benefit the library could yield more than $780,000 a year. It would cost the average residential property owner about $22 annually.

The referendum committee will probably finalize Plan A and Plan B by the end of March, White said.

Once that is done, it will focus on educating residents about the referendum and getting the signatures it needs to get on the ballot.

Campaigning will begin in earnest after Labor Day, White said. Board members are not allowed to campaign directly.

Meanwhile, board members are crafting an overall strategic plan for the library, separate from the Plan A and Plan B being drafted by the referendum committee. This takes a broader view as library officials decide their focus for the future.

It began with crafting a new mission statement: “The mission of the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library is to enrich our community by promoting literacy and fostering lifelong learning.”

Whether or not a referendum is successful, the strategic plan will help the library define its role, Smith said.

“I think it's going to affirm what we're doing in the community and why we're there and what the community feels,” she said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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