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Township Budget Passed, Library Funding's Back

Pottstown's library.

Pottstown's library.

SANATOGA PA – Reacting to what they described as an overwhelming response from constituents, members of the Lower Pottsgrove Township Board of Commissioners reversed course Thursday night (Dec. 18, 2008) and decided to restore previously cut funding for the Pottstown Public Library. It won’t happen until January, though, and so the board approved the township’s 2009 budget technically without changes.

As a result, the township’s real estate tax rate next year for overall operating expenses remains unchanged from 2008 at 1.958 mills, or about $1.96 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. The board raised the real estate tax rate for fire services to .34 mills (34 cents per $1,000), as previously announced, but left all other fees and rates unchanged as well.

Bottom line: on a home in Lower Pottsgrove assessed at $200,000, its owners will pay about $460 in township property taxes next year.

The surprise of the night was the commissioners’ unanimous pledge to return $30,000 in library funding axed from the budget in November. Board members said they would make a special appropriation during January from unreserved funds – the township’s piggy bank – to ensure the library receives the same $60,000 contribution from the township it got this year.

Commissioners also said they would re-examine at mid-year, but made no promises to fully restore, another $3,100 in funds also cut from the budget for the Visiting Nurses Association of Pottstown and Vicinity, the Pottstown Area Seniors Center, and the Lower Pottsgrove Historical Society. Those agencies in 2009 are budgeted to get only half the amounts previously contributed by the township.

“We’ve never had the type or volume of feedback” on a budget issue as board members received from the public over their proposed library funding cut, Commissioner Jonathan Spadt said Thursday. “It became very clear to us that we needed to make an adjustment.”

“I thought everyone was getting most of their information from the Internet,” added Commissioner Stephen Klotz. But when even members of high school-level sports teams he coaches took him to task over the library money, “I knew I was changing my mind,” Klotz conceded.

Also helping to change board thinking, according to Commissioner James Phillips, was a meeting with library officials and a tour of the library during the past month. “We discussed funding levels and government mandates, and had better information than before to be able to make a decision,” Phillips said.

Library Interim Director Carolyn Wiker was in the audience for the board’s announcement. “We greatly appreciate your willingness to reconsider our situation,” she told commissioners.

Also Thursday, the board:

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