Residents finally see vote on library

Amro El-Jaroudi
reads Amro El-Jaroudi reads an R.L. Stine `Goosebumps' story to his two children (from left) Rasha, 7, and Nadim, 5, before they decide to check it out at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie. El-Jaroudi, who lives in Scott Township, comes to Carnegie because Scott has no library of its own. A referendum in November would give Scott its first library. (James Knox/Tribune-Review photo)
By Renee Cardelli-Robinson

After more than 30 years of fund-raising, petitioning and speculation, Scott Township residents finally will see a library this November.

On the ballot, that is.

For the first time, residents will be able to decide for themselves whether they want a library of their own.

"I feel sure that when people see what the benefit is to the township, they can make up their own minds how to allocate funds in a budget," said Ellen Souders, whose family was among the original contributors to a library fund in 1965.

Souders, 69, a member of the Scott Township Library Committee, said a library is necessary because schools aren't open year-round and school library collections primarily are there to support education programs.

"There are other things like children's hobbies and programs that a library can offer," she said, adding that the committee's "library-mobile" will pass out candy and information about the referendum on Saturday.

Lorrie Fontanesi will be driving the van loaned by Woltz & Wind Ford Inc. of Scott, and said the idea of the township tour is "to get people to come out and say `yes' to the referendum ... It's to get people to understand we have funds to build a library."

Scott officials have agreed that if the referendum passes, the township will give about $57,000 a year - the equivalent of a half mill of property tax revenue - to fund the library.

The township set aside $85,000 as a start-up contribution for the library in this year's budget, and adopted a resolution to put the question on the ballot in August.

Commissioner Janet Beerhalter said she supports a library in the township and pushed for a referendum in 1995, but didn't meet the deadline for signatures. Despite her enthusiasm for a township library, she believes taxes eventually will go up.

The referendum itself doesn't call for a tax increase. It's solely a chance for residents to decide whether a library should be opened.

But Beerhalter said, "If you're taking money out of a $5 million budget for a library and you're not replenishing it, it doesn't take an Einstein to figure it out. I don't think people should be lied to or deceived. People should know taxes will go up."

On the ballot

Scott Township voters will be asked on Nov. 2 whether the township should move forward on creating the township's first library.

  • The referendum doesn't mean that property taxes automatically would be raised by a half-mill.

  • Instead, the township would designate the equivalent of half-mill in tax revenue to fund the library. A half-mill generates about $57,000 for the township.

  • The current tax rate is 23 mills. That means the owner of a house with a $100,000 market value, for example, pays about $575 in township taxes.
  • Commissioner Tom Castello said that may not be true.

    "Three years down the road, your taxes go up for any reason. Who knows if taxes are going to go up?," he said, adding that the revenue from two new major housing developments has yet to be determined.

    "I think we will have sufficient funds for the library. It's a facetious argument when people say taxes are going up. Taxes go up for many reasons," he said.

    Castello, head of the township's finance committee, added that a library is important because the township has no downtown area.

    Scott's municipal building is scheduled to undergo expansion with a $1.6 million state grant. At the Oct. 26 commissioners' meeting, plans are to be presented for the renovations and are expected to include a library.

    "In addition to the obvious reasons - the books, the education - it will give us a center of the community and have a focal point for township information," Castello said.

    Laura Hartman, a member of the library's steering committee, said there already is $190,000 in the library fund. The fund started out as about $30,000 to $40,000 in the 1960s and has been accumulating interest.

    Hartman said the library would cost about $190,000 in startup costs and about $85,000 each year to operate. In the third year of operation, the library would be eligible for Allegheny County Regional Asset District funds.

    "Our funding will go up automatically without taxes going up. We believe that we can manage. The money is already set aside," Hartman said, adding that the committee will be doing additional fund-raising.

    Hartman said the goal is to have a library open 35 hours a week with five full-time employees and a head librarian, and offer 26,000 volumes, 50 periodicals, computers and Internet access to patrons.

    Resident Nancy B. Quinn said she's not opposed to libraries, she just doesn't think one is necessary in her township.

    "I love to read. I sleep in a bookcase bed. It's not an easy decision. I'm just scared to death that they're going to raise taxes again," said Quinn, a Scott resident for 36 years.

    In addition, she said, many people use the Internet as an information source and there already are many libraries in nearby communities that are easily accessible to Scott residents.

    "They're close enough. ... There's one in Bridgeville, Carnegie, Mt. Lebanon, Dormont," she said.

    She added, "Everybody needs a library, but I think they'd be better off giving to the school libraries. I gave money to the library fund when my children were small. I was thinking about my children, but we didn't have computers then."

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