On Dec. 4, the Upper Nazareth Board of Supervisors met at the township building to once again discuss the library funding cuts with the public. Early on the meeting was opened to the public and the director of the Nazareth Memorial library, Holly Bennett, spoke first. She provided the board with details of the Nazareth Memorial Library’s budget, including salaries and annual training that must be done.
“The library is operating in a very sound fiscal manner,” Bennett said. “We are not hiding anything financially. We understand the township has its financial struggles, but the library’s formulated financial request from Upper Nazareth of $98,000 is less than three percent of your townships projected total expenditures for 2020.”
Board of Supervisor member Donna Hirst stated that she had a few questions about the library’s finances and how it is operated. She looked through the library’s finances and stated the board was being fiscally responsible for asking those questions.
“Is the library duplicating any efforts that are being done by NACAC?” Hirst asked, “Because we pay into Northampton County a certain amount of money and Northampton County has the Northampton County Community College, which is available to people.”
Bennett responded that Northampton Community College does have the ability to offer a wide array of services, some overlapping.
“The difference is if a resident would like to go to a community college they would have to pay a fee,” Bennett said. “So if you’re thinking if we offer cooking classes or resume writing classes, certainly Northampton Community College would offer that, the difference being the public library offers that to individuals for free.”
Hirst followed up asking if it would be feasible for the library to do the same as the college and charge for these services.
“The mission of the library is to open doors and be non-discriminatory and provide access and information to all people,” Bennett said. “By placing that financial barrier I would be preventing that from happening.”
Hirst then asked Bennett about how library services would be affected by the budget cut. Was she specifically going to decrease services for Upper Nazareth Township residents alone or is it going to be a global cut to everything?
“Certainly all of my services would be impacted in some way,” Bennett said, “However, Upper Nazareth Township residents will be focused on because of the percentage you are giving us compared to what we are asking for. So there will be a point in time that I will have to say to your residents, ‘I am sorry but you can’t check out a book.’ I am not going to say that to any of my other municipalities because they are paying the requested amount.”
Hirst continued by questioning members from the library about an account earning interest and dividends of $17,000, specially where is the principal, how much is it and when will the library use it. The account holds $500,000 and was received in the 1990s during a capital campaign; it cannot be touched because it can only be used for library improvements.
Hirst also questioned the $35,000 salary of one employee, asking if their salary is offset by the money they are bringing in. She also asked if the library can charge for services that are above and beyond what a normal library does, as well as asking Northampton County for funding. Soon after those questions Hirst said she was done asking questions for now.
Chairman Michael Rinker asked Bennett if she and some of her staff would be willing to sit down and talk with two Board of Supervisor members, as well as the township manager Lisa Klem to discuss the rest of the questions. Bennett agreed.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the Nazareth Area Intermediate School.