Monday, January 16, 2017
Bethlehem Tp Poised to Opt Out of Library
Bethlehem Area Public Library is financed by Bethlehem, Bethlehem Tp, Hanover Tp and Fountain Hill Borough. Bethlehem Tp has 9,749 cardholders, including 528 new cardholders in 2015. That translates to 41% of the Township's population. In addition to the annual per capita assessment of municipalities, the library benefits from nearly $215,000 in donations and grants each year.
Commissioners are unable, under the current Library Law, to directly ask voters whether they want to remain at the Bethlehem Area Public Library. So the only question that can really be asked is whether residents are willing to pay a special tax for a library of their own.
Solicitor Jim Broughal has come up with the following referendum question: "Do the voters of Bethlehem Township desire that the Board of Commissioners of Bethlehem Township levy a special tax on all taxable property within Bethlehem Township to be used exclusively for the establishment and maintenance of and aid to a local library?”
But thanks to the Library Law, this is really confusing.
A "Yes" could be interpreted as acknowledging support for what the maintenance and aid of the Township's own library. But it could just as easily mean that residents support the already existing Bethlehem Area Public Library. A "No" could indicate that taxpayers want no library of their own. But it could also mean they want no library at all.
I understand that Commissioners want to give voters the final word on this question. But to give this matter more certainty, I think the question should be more clear. Here's a suggestion: ""Do the voters of Bethlehem Township desire that the Board of Commissioners of Bethlehem Township levy a special tax on all taxable property within Bethlehem Township to be used exclusively for the establishment and maintenance of and aid to Bethlehem Township's own library?”