Mayor breaks tie vote on library funding

By on December 17, 2015

Mayor explains vote to limit library funding 

Mowen pointed to the fact that 70 percent of those using the library are non-borough residents and that he wanted to see the other municipalities served by the library do a better job of stepping up with funding

Mowen pointed to the fact that 70 percent of those using the library are non-borough residents and that he wanted to see the other municipalities served by the library do a better job of stepping up with funding 

Urges other municipalities to step up as their residents use facility

For a brief moment, those hoping Ephrata Borough Council might chip in the additional 30-cents per capita needed to take its library funding from the proposed $4.70 to the state suggested $5 per capita set their sights on Mayor Ralph Mowen as he cast the deciding vote.

But in the end, it didn’t happen.

In a rare (thought it also happened last month) split four-to-four vote, Mowen was called on as mayor to be the tiebreaker. Pausing thoughtfully, he began to explain his rational.

“I really hoped it would not come down to this,” said Mowen. “I really did. But I’m going to vote no.”

Library shotIn explaining his vote, Mowen pointed to the fact that 70 percent of those using the library are non-borough residents and that he wanted to see the other municipalities served by the library do a better job of stepping up with funding.

“I have been involved with this body for over 30 years and I am still waiting for them to step to the plate and assist in things that we all share in,” added Mowen, pointing to things like the Ephrata Rec Center, fire companies and, of course, the library.

Mowen admitted that this was a very difficult choice for him, saying he is clearly a strong supporter of the library. He lauded the library staff for their exceptional work in raising funds to support their efforts. However, he also felt pulled by the fact that the borough also gives much in the form of “in-kind” contributions to the library such as free lease and electric.

In fact, according to council figures, overall Ephrata Borough support of the library is $424,000, well beyond the $5 per capita cash contribution called for by state regulations. The initial proposed budget for 2016 set that per capita figure closer to $3.80. However, following public outcry and a strong show of support in favor of the library, council was able to defer a $15,000 sidewalk project along Route 272 adjacent to the library and make an annual $4,000 computer contribution permanent to raise that figure from $3.80 to 4.70 per capita.

“Out of a $38 million budget, sure, an additional $3,900 (to go from $4.70 to $5 per capita) may be peanuts, but it’s still the money the people of this borough put into their budget,” added Mowen. “I will pledge to help the library raise the $3,900 but I’m going to vote no.”

Following the meeting, Mowen personally walked over to talk with the library’s director of development Joy Ashley &tstr; who was on hand for Monday night’s meeting &tstr; to affirm library efforts and his support, regardless of the final vote. According to Ashley, Mowen also renewed his commitment to assist the library in fundraising, priming the pump with an unspecified personal contribution toward the difference.

The discussion about adding the additional 30 cents began during the resident comments where former borough council member and former library board member Richard Stewart addressed council making an impassioned plea.

“Please look into your hearts to up the contribution to an even $5,” said Stewart. “Sure the other municipalities are not giving an equal part, but this is the seventh most used library in the state and I just feel we need to continue to support them.”

It was Councilman Bob Good, however, that got the ball rolling on upping the per capita contribution. It came down to trying to convince his fellow council members to adopt an amendment to the resolution already on the floor adopting the 2016 fiscal budget. Even the vote on the amendment came close to not taking place as council president Dale Hertzog made a slight procedural attempt to block it.

“I don’t feel that (the vote) is in order,” said Hertzog, “but that’s just my opinion.”

Good pressed on, saying that he wanted an up or down vote on the amendment and that a roll call vote on the matter would allow council members to vote their conscience.

Budget and Finance Committee Chair Vic Richard continued to lead the opposition to any further funding.

“We support this library and hear from the community but to the tune of $200,000-400,000 per year,” said Richard. “The community only ever remembers the $5 per capita. It’s like the ‘like-kind’ contributions are lost. I struggle with the ‘like-kind’ funds as if they are invisible. For the past 10 years as chair of this committee the battle cry has been for $5 per capita. I’m amazed how we keep hearing about this $5 all the time. We’ve been funding the lions share since the beginning. Now we are talking about (another) 30 cents; isn’t $424,000 enough?”

It was council member Mel Weiler who pointed out to council that the Good amendment amounted to roughly $3,900. Council member Sue Rowe let council know that the money for amendment would have to come out of the capital projects fund, which by the end of 2016 would be severely depleted.

In pressing for the amendment, Good again pointed to the progress made just over the past year and urged council to allow the library one additional year to continue the momentum, especially with getting other municipalities to do a better job stepping up. Council member Tim Barr again brought up the costs associated with the new HVAC system installed but not working properly, expressing concerns that the nearly $10,000 spent by the library on a system installed by the borough on a borough-owned building, but not working properly, might well be funds the library should have coming back to them.

According to borough manager Bob Thompson and solicitor James McManus, that may well be a possibility but that would not resolve the current budget situation.

After the meeting Ashley commented on the evening’s deliberations.

“The library is grateful for the $4.70 per capita passed by borough council. Naturally, we are disappointed that the $5/capita did not pass, but we are very appreciative of council’s efforts in ‘finding the funds’ within their budget and reallocating them to provide this level of support,” said Ashley. “We hope that individuals and businesses in the borough understand that the nearly $4,000 that must be raised to meet the state minimum of $5 per capita must be raised by the library through private means, and we trust that they will rise to this challenge.”

When the roll call vote came, council members Bob Good, Tim Barr, Tom Reinhold and Anthony Kilkuskie all voted in favor of the additional 30 cents while council members Vic Richard, Susan Rowe, Mel Weiler and Dale Hertzog all voted against the amendment, bringing about the stalemate which Mowen broke.

Both Richard and Hertzog were also the sole no-votes in another vote with regard to the library. In this vote, the library was requesting a letter of support to the Library System of Lancaster County for the proposal to realign Lancaster County Public Library service areas. The measure passed with the balance of the council all voting in favor. Following the vote, Hertzog asked the council secretary to make sure the record showed that there had been two no-votes on the letter for the library.

And finally, Monday night’s meeting marked the final council session for two retiring council members. Both Bob Good and Tony Kilkuskie decided to not seek re-election after each serving 12 years on council. The borough presented each with a special watch engraved with ‘Ephrata Borough’ on it, recognizing their years of service. Good and Kilkuskie both said they each plan to continue in public service in some form of another.

For their part, council members, former and current, had nothing but warm wishes for their departing colleagues.

Former council member George Di’Ilio commented at the beginning of the meeting.

“Having spent time at that council table with them, I recognize the countless hours these men have spent on behalf of the betterment of this borough,” said Di’Ilio. “We didn’t always agree on matters discussed but we did work together and so may I be the first to say ‘Well done, Tony Kilkuskie and Bob Good.”

After several had expressed their appreciation to them, Good and Kilkuskie individually thanked the council, staff and voters of the borough and said it had been a pleasure to serve on council.

As a final bit of advice, Good had this to say to their successors, both of whom have been in council chambers quite a bit over the past several months to learn the ropes.

“Just remember: the argument is half the fun!”

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit ephrataboro.org.

Gary P. Klinger is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review and welcomes your feedback and questions via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

 

 

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